Syracuse fell to 1-1 in ACC play with a heartbreaking 73-67 loss at Wake Forest Wednesday night. A sloppy game in the first-half turned into a nail-bitter in the second. However, SU couldn’t make the winning plays down the stretch and missed out on a great chance to pick up a resume-boosting road win. Let’s break down how this happened and hand out grades to each Syracuse player that saw action Wednesday night.
Let me first say that if anyone could afford a bad game it was Tyus Battle. The sophomore has carried SU all season long and made countless winning plays. However, tonight Battle simply didn’t make those plays were used to him making. He had a costly turnover late and uncharacteristically missed the front end of a pivotal one and one. On top of that, this was one of the few times Battle got in serious foul trouble all season. I don’t expect this to become a trend. Battle is still the guy going forward and still on pace to get drafted in June. Let’s remember this was really just his second off night in 15 games.
If you had to describe Frank Howard to an alien all you would have to do is show them the last 35 seconds of Wednesday nights game. It was vintage Frank Howard. Starting with the costly turnover that SU fans have seen too many times to his fifth three pointer of the night just moments later—a John Gillon esque bounce-back triple that SU absolutely had to have. On one hand, the junior flashed his ceiling, racking up a team-high 23 points thanks in large part to his improved jump-shot. However, on the other hand, Howard still totaled six turnovers. That’s gotta change. There’s no ignoring that. But overall the good outweighed the bad tonight for the Washington D.C. native, much like it has for a majority of this season.
This was also a very typical Oshae Brissett game. He flashed some crafty moves in the lane, caused problems on the defensive end, and was also inefficient from the floor yet again. The freshmen finished with 15 points on 5-16 shooting. Despite only sinking five shots, Brissett still made some huge plays tonight. The “And-1”layup in the final minute and tying three-pointer with three minutes left come to mind. He’s well on his way to making the All-ACC rookie team but the youngster needs to improve his efficiency going forward.
Matt Moyer played his way out of Jim Boehiem’s doghouse after an ill-advised jumper in the first minute of the game gave me a quick seat on the bench. However, the Ohio native never really put his foot-print on this game in the second half. He had his customary baseline flush, but outside of that he was really quiet on the offensive end. It’s nights like tonight where SU could’ve really used Moyer or another fourth guy to step-up. The freshmen is hustling like crazy out there, but he still needs to become more consistent on the offensive end. If he could give the Orange an efficient eighth points a night that would go a long way.
Man has Chukwu developed since the start of the season. For starters, he’s actually finishing wide open dunks and not a complete liability at the foul-line. I guess practice really does make perfect because the 7’2 center has gone from Tyler Roberson at the foul-line to Tyler Lydon virtually overnight and Wednesday night’s 4-4 performance at the stripe was just another example. The free-throw shooting might not even be the most important area of improvement though. I’d argue it’s his defense. Granted there are still a couple times a game where you’d wish Chukwu would use more of his 7’2 frame, but he’s staying out of foul trouble and that’s the important thing. If the Providence-transfer keeps playing like this, SU won’t have trouble rebounding against the big dogs of the ACC like they have in years past.
I’m giving Dolezaj a B basically out of default because the freshmen really never got a chance to make an impact Wednesday. He shot the ball just once in only nine minutes of play. At the beginning of the season, Dolezaj was the beloved surprise story. As the competition has gotten tougher, his hustle plays aren’t coming as easy. However, we knew this was going to happen all a long and that still doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be playing more than nine minutes a game in ACC play.
Washington came in for three pivotal minutes in the second half after Battle picked up his fourth foul and he did his job. He didn’t add anything to the stat sheet but that also means he didn’t force any three-point jumpers that would cause Jim Boeheim to lose his mind like we saw in OT against Georgetown. Like Dolezaj, I’m still in the camp that believes he should be getting more opportunities. But, Boeheim has never liked playing more than seven guys so we probably won’t see the freshmen unless one of the starters gets in serious foul trouble like they did Wednesday night.
I’m giving Sidibe an A+ simply because we saw him out on the floor Wednesday. Even if it was for three meaningless minutes, it’s huge for Syracuse. The Orange were going to have a hard time making the tournament with one true big and only six rotational players and tonight’s three minutes should mean we’re going to be seeing more Sidibe going forward.
Boeheim on Sidibe going forward. "He's gonna play, he's healthy enough." Says some consideration was given to redshirting him but not a ton.
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) January 4, 2018
KEY STAT: Syracuse was out-rebounded Wednesday for the first time all season.
OF NOTE: This is the first time Wake Forest has ever beaten Syracuse. The Orange now lead the all-time series 5-1.
The Orange looks for a bounce back win at home on Saturday against Notre Dame. As always, follow @OrangeFizz on twitter for updates throughout the game.