Fifty-four games. Fifty-nine freaking years. That’s how long the winning streak had been over Colgate. Last night, it went up in a puff of dust like LeBron James clapping at the scorer’s table. How could something like that happen, especially with one of the better teams Syracuse has seemingly had in years?
Start off with the opponent. Colgate has been a thorn in high-major sides for years. They won the Patriot League’s bid to the NCAA Tournament in ’19 and ’21. In both games they gave Power 5 opponents a slugfest. Two-seed Tennessee survived 77-70. Against 3-seed Arkansas in March, the Hogs only led 36-33 at the half. Matt Langel has been there for a decade, so they know what they do, and they do it well.
Okay, enough with the praise for Colgate. As good as they are, this is more on the Orange. Because the most glaring, horrifying, ugly part about this game was the SU defense. The Orange allowed 100 points in regulation to a team of players that frankly would have no business playing in the ACC.
Jack Ferguson led the Raiders with 25 points. His offers before his senior year of high school? All from NAIA and Division II programs like Goshen, Purdue-Northwest, William Jewell and Fairmont State. After his senior year, Colgate, Stetson, and Marist had interest. Nelly Cummings added 18 for the Raiders. He had interest from Dartmouth and Bowling Green coming out of high school, and chose BSU before transferring to Colgate.
The defense for the Orange was lethargic, lackluster and painful. Both Ferguson and Cummings hit 6 three-pointers, and the Raiders went to the well early and often. The perimeter defense was awful, and the 2-3 zone once again showed his vulnerability to a hot-shooting team. But the Orange also got killed on the glass, allowing a disastrous 19 offensive boards to a Patriot League opponent. That’s about effort and energy. The Orange were outrebounded 44-34 by guys that wouldn’t have even recruited.
To make matters worse, the Raiders hit triple-digits and missed their first 12 shots from deep. Colgate is the first team to hit 100 points in regulation against the Orange since ’09 when Nova did it. Jim Boeheim admitted after the game his team got lulled into false confidence when Colgate missed those shots early and the Orange built a 17-2 lead. The Orange assumed it was good defense, but really Colgate was just missing open shots.
The Raiders also were phenomenal in moving the ball and creating open shots. This upset was the combination of a good, experienced team having more focus and energy than Syracuse. You can live with a team like UNC or Duke doing some of these things. But for a Patriot League team to come to the Dome and do it, needs to be a wake-up call for the Orange.