Wednesday presented a huge opportunity for the Orange to get one step closer to an NCAA Tournament bid for only the second time in the last four years. The Orange lost an absolute heart-breaker, 74-70 at the Carrier Dome and were dealt. a severe blow to their tournament help.
The first half was a whistle fest and a series of runs. The Orange at one point were able to push their lead to seven but the Wolfpack refused to go away. N.C. State maintained a frantic pace and was able to attack the heart of the Syracuse zone with relative ease in the latter ten minutes of the first half, taking a three point lead into the locker room.
The second half was mostly more of the same. Soft foul calls, some poor rebounding by Syracuse, some big-time shots from Oshae Brissett and an overall competitive affair. However, some terrible mistakes at the worst times, and an inability to get stops when they mattered most sunk the Orange in this game and dealt a major blow to the team’s hopes of competing in the Big Dance come March.
As hard as it may be to believe, Syracuse’s defense is what let them down in the end. Yes, the Orange had some bad turnovers in the final six or seven minutes but when it came down to it, they just couldn’t make a timely stop. Oshae Brissett willed the Orange back into the game, hitting a pair of late three pointers to tie the game at seventy. Then, the problem that plagued the Orange the entire second half arose again. Syracuse failed to close down a three point shooter, namely Sam Hunt, and they got burned.
Poor free throw shooting ultimately proved to be the final nail in the Orange coffin with Frank Howard missing a pair in the final ten seconds that would have cut the deficit to one, but Syracuse found themselves in a hole because they couldn’t State from beyond the arc. Coach Jim Boeheim concurred.
“The game was decided because we didn’t get to the three point shooters… That was really the story of the second half. We didn’t defend the three point line.”
This trend emerged against Wake Forest on Sunday, with the Deacs hitting six three pointers in a short span after only hitting one in the entire first half, and none in the first 19:55 of the game. Forward Oshae Brissett says he thinks the Orange have been doing a good job shutting down three point shooters for most of the season and will have to turn to the film of the last two games to figure out why that has changed.
If the answer to that question if fatigue, which it just might be, the Orange may be in for more struggles with Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe both playing limited minutes with a back and knee injury respectively. Next up for the Orange is a tough trip down to South Beach to play Miami on Saturday.