No. 6 Syracuse trails No. 14 Pittsburgh, 36-30, at halftime of the Orange’s first ACC Tournament game of 2019. Three takeaways from the opening 20:
Oshae Brissett needs to step up
With Tyus Battle on the shelf due to what a Syracuse Athletics spokesperson deemed a “back bruise,” the Orange needed to lean on the other two prongs of the Big Three. But in the game when his team needs him the most, and when the stakes are perhaps higher than they’ve been all season, Oshae Brissett has receded from the occasion, not risen to it.
The two wings — Brissett and Elijah Hughes — are clearly SU’s most talented offensive players without Battle on the floor, but in the first half, they were the guys they’ve been all season: NBA bodies who show flashes of immense talent but are consistently inconsistent with their aggressiveness and efficiency. Hughes woke up toward the end of the half and finished it with 10 points (3-7 FG, 3-5 3PT), but he would do himself and the offense and immense favor if he focused on attacking the basket like he did against Wake Forest (when he was 7-8 inside the arc).
Brissett, meanwhile, heads to the locker room with four points on 2-6 shooting. The sophomore has been frustrating all season, but maybe never more than tonight, when a big performance could save his team from a loss to a team that won three ACC games in the regular season.
Jared Wilson-Frame is unconscious… again
In what’s quickly becoming a tradition unlike any other, Jared Wilson-Frame is raining fire on the 2-3 zone. The Pittsburgh sophomore has knocked down at least four 3’s in every game against Syracuse this season, and his zone-busting has reached a pinnacle tonight, with a whopping six (6) treys in the first 20 minutes.
It’s easy to say things like, “Get a hand in his face!” or “The zone can’t stop 3-point shooting!” but this feels like a simple case of the hot hand. Just like when Kyle Guy buried the Orange under an avalanche of treys earlier this month, it’s tough to say whether there’s anything SU can do to slow down this sizzling sniper.
But if he doesn’t cool down in the second half, the Syracuse could be staring at another early exit from the ACC Tournament.
Pittsburgh is feeding Syracuse a spoonful of its own medicine
The Panthers flipped to a 2-3 zone in the first half, and it paid off: the Orange shot 10-29 (34.5 percent) from the floor through the first 20 minutes. You would think SU would be pretty good at beating a zone, considering the players see it every day in practice, but it’s not that simple.
Right now, Jeff Capel’s zone is arguably more effective than Jim Boeheim’s. That fact is both unforeseen and, if it continues into the second half, insurmountable.