Heading into this season, Jim Boeheim knew his team would live or die by the three. So far, the Orange are third in the ACC in three point percentage at 36 percent. Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes rank second and third respectively in the ACC in three point shooting. The two also lead the ACC in threes per game.
Boeheim has become a sniper for the Orange, which included pouring in 18 straight points against Virginia Tech. And sometimes, it seems like he just can’t miss.
And SU still has room for improvement. Fellow sharp-shooter Joe Girard is just starting to heat up, and is quietly shooting 36 percent from three. After shooting 1-15 in a three game span (against Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Iowa), Girard is shooting 45 percent (14-31) from deep in the last five games. If he qualified for threes taken, Girard would place sixth in the ACC in three shooting.
Similar to Boeheim a year ago, it seems like Girard is becoming more comfortable from deep once ACC play heats up. Transitioning from high school to college is a massive change, even for a shooter who broke New York state’s all-time scoring record.
But besides being a very good shooting team, Syracuse is also one of the best ACC teams defending the three ball. While the 2-3 zone is liable to a barrage of threes – like last season’s NCAA Tournament matchup against Baylor – that hasn’t been much of an issue this season.
The Orange rank fourth in the ACC in three point defense – opponents shoot just 30 percent. And it’s not for a lack of trying either. 536 threes have been taken against SU this season. The next highest in the ACC is 472 against Virginia Tech.
Syracuse made a slight tweak to its 2-3 zone prior to its win over Virginia. Quincy Guerrier said that SU’s defense moved up a couple of feet, resulting in more pressure on the wing. And in SU’s last three games – all wins – opponents have shot just 29 percent from three. Granted, Boston College and Virginia are the two worst shooting teams in the ACC, and Virginia Tech shot 40.5 percent against SU. The Hokies are also the second best team from three in the conference.
But unlike earlier games against UVA and VT, Syracuse won the last two. Clearly, the slight change in the zone, and shooters heating up is changing the fortunes for the Orange.