Yes, the Orange lost to Villanova, 82-77, in overtime. Yes, the referees didn’t help its cause. But, Syracuse also played its best game of the year, held a 15-point lead in the second half and a 5-point lead with 17 seconds to play. This is a game the Orange has to win.
Just like last week, the game slipped away from the Orange, even though it was fully in control of the game all afternoon. Villanova didn’t hold a lead until overtime. The Orange was in command and just had to not mess up. Until it did mess up, and once Villanova went on the run to tie up the game, the Orange had no shot. There was no way this team was going to win when regulation ended and the game went to overtime.
Jim Boeheim refused to speak about the officiating after the game. Yes, the officiating was suspect and there were plenty of bad calls, but there were also plenty of bad calls and missed calls going the other way. Michael Gbinije even thought he was going to be called for a charge when he drew a block. Regardless of the officiating, you cannot put yourself in a position where three starters will foul out. Do something, anything other than what you are doing, but there is no reason for three players to foul out.
One thing Boeheim did say after the game was that it was the best game the Orange played all year, and it was. He said Kaleb Joseph made good plays, and he did. And he said they were in position to win the game when it was crunch time against a top 10 team on the road, and as he said “that is all you can ask for.”
But the larger issue here is that the Orange has to learn to finish games. Last week, SU blew a double digit lead before hanging on to beat Louisiana Tech by 2. This week it was not so lucky. A couple of plays go differently, and there is no Villanova win, no Villanova comeback and probably not even an overtime being played. The Orange missed five free throws; that is a difference maker.
SU missed eight 3-pointers; that is a difference maker. Any number of things go differently and all of a sudden the officiating doesn’t matter, we aren’t talking about the Orange blowing another lead, and Syracuse comes away from the Wells Fargo Center with a signature win it may badly need come Selection Sunday.
Posted: Seth Goldberg