Brycen Goodine stole the show with a layup to seal a Syracuse takedown of Wake Forest 75-73 in what was a must-win for the Orange. Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes shared the spotlight once again, as SU provided fans with a win after two deflating losses. Here are some takeaways from SU‚Äôs win over the Demon Deacons:
Despite Wake Forest not being the toughest opponent on the conference slate for the Orange, this was a must-win game. Coming off two losses, SU needed to prove it still deserved to be in the tournament conversation. A loss tonight would have made it really difficult to still make a case for Syracuse to be playing meaningful basketball in March. Even though it was a close game, and Syracuse didn‚Äôt particularly well, it still shows up as a W, and that‚Äôs all that counts for a team that‚Äôs grasping at straws in the NCAA tournament conversation.
Defense is an aspect of Syracuse‚Äôs game that has come under some of the most criticism this season compared to seasons prior. 132nd in the nation in points allowed, last year being 43rd and 10th the year before that. Tonight, however, the Orange tightened up the famous 2-3 zone and held their opponents to 38% from the field and 23% from distance. Defense will be an important part of the SU game coming down the stretch this season, with some challenging opponents left on the schedule SU will need stellar defense to have a chance.
Better Three-Point Shooting:
Before tonight‚Äôs contest, Syracuse had been suffering through a three-point shooting lull. Over its last five games, SU shot 26.6% from distance. For a team that lives and dies behind the arc, that just doesn‚Äôt cut it. Tonight against Wake things were a lot more smooth from distance for Syracuse, Buddy Boeheim seemed to have all the confidence in the world, launching triple after triple along with Elijah Hughes to do the same. When the Orange are able to make their threes, good things happen. 33% isn‚Äôt good but it‚Äôs definitely an improvement for a squad that desperately needed it.
Poor Play from Under the Basket:
Coming into this one, there was one spot in which it was easy to pick out a Wake Forest advantage, bigs. Wake‚Äôs Olivier Sarr came into the night averaging 13 PPG and 9.4 RPG, that‚Äôs a line that screams, ‚ÄúBourama is in trouble,‚Äù and he was. Once again, SU struggled to grab rebounds. Sidibe fouled out with just 2 points and 2 rebounds, an absolutely abysmal performance. Guerrier was solid off the bench, but just 3 rebounds won‚Äôt cut it. Elijah Hughes and Marek Dolezaj bailed them out however, they combined for 15. Going forward, with tougher competition ahead, those kinds of performances just will not be enough for SU‚Äôs most relied on rebounders.
Fouls Continue to Pester the Orange:
For the second game in a row, Sidibe and Guerrier both fouled out, and Dolezaj joined them this time. While this means they‚Äôre giving their all under the basket, it also means they aren‚Äôt skilled enough to do something against opposing big men without fouling. Olivier Sarr is a hard player to stop, so it makes sense that SU struggled, but to really be successful, and put in a good performance against any team, you‚Äôd prefer to not have three extremely important players be out well before the end of the game.
Syracuse squeaked out a win in a game that they probably should have won much more convincingly. Regardless, Brycen Goodine forever etches his name into Syracuse history with an unforgettable buzzer-beater.