What a week full of ups and downs for SU hoops. After not taking the floor as a team for a solid two weeks, the Orange had to switch their focus from Florida State to Pitt while the Seminoles dealt with COVID-19 issues, and prepare for the Panthers in two days’ worth of practice time. After a strong start versus Pitt, an absolute meltdown followed in the second half.
Saturday’s game against Georgetown had the same flow. The Orange opened up a 13-point lead early in the first half, only to see the Hoyas come out cooking in the second half. However, SU stayed strong down the stretch. That’s where we start today.
They absolutely did. Pitt dominated Syracuse on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 49-33 and tallying 21 second chance points. Senior Marek Dolezaj said after the loss to the Panthers that the Orange needed to work harder down low and play smarter defense, and they certainly did on Saturday.
SU out-rebounded Georgetown 38-32, and also scored 14 second chance points to the Hoyas’ 11. Patrick Ewing’s squad pulled down six offense rebounds in the second half, but only recorded seven second chance points. Three of those came in the last 30 seconds, when the game was out of reach. Syracuse only allowed one offensive rebound in the final five minutes of the second half, tied with the one tooth the Orange down the stretch.
In the Pitt game, the Panthers crashed the boards hard in the second half, forcing the Orange to play defense for almost 45 seconds per possession. Defense is taxing, especially in a zone, where defenders have to keep their head on a swivel at all times. Players are always told to “Rest on offense.” When everyone needs to rest at once, the offense falls apart. Syracuse’s lack of good looks in the second half last Wednesday boiled down to tired legs and minds.
Syracuse needed backcourt tandem Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim to heat up against the Hoyas, and they did just that, scoring 18 and 21 points respectively. The guards hit four timely threes in the second half. But the Orange offense wasn’t just powered by treys. SU took 15 shots down low in the second 20 minutes, scoring 10 points in the paint. Syracuse also shot 11-14 from the charity stripe on Saturday. Against Pitt, they only took 6.
The Georgetown win showed that the Orange need two of their three shooters to be hitting at all times. Saturday, it was Girard and Boeheim. Quincy Guerrier came close to his customary double-double, but Alan Griffin threw up a dud. Wednesday, only Griffin reached double digits. Hopefully this game is the starting point of some consistency behind the arc.