After 55 tries, the longest winning streak in NCAA history by one team over another has come to a close. On November 21st, 2021, Colgate men’s basketball took down Syracuse in the Dome by a score of 100-85. The win marked the end of the longest domination by one team over another in Division I history, having already broken the old mark (52) held by UCLA over California between 1961-1985.
SU had been 54-0 against Colgate since its last loss to the Raiders during the 1961-62 season. That February, the Raiders took down the Orange 67-63. Ever since, Colgate was an annuity that hadn’t stopped paying – until now.
Early on, this year’s game looked like it was going to be like the last 54. Syracuse jumped out to a 17-2 lead in the blink of an eye and seemed to have the game in control. SU went on to lead 23-8 before the game’s dynamic seemed to shift. Colgate hit a rapid succession of three-pointers to get back in the game and kept on hitting. Raider guards Jack Ferguson and Nelly Cummings combined to go 12-26 from deep, and it was Cummings who hit from downtown with seconds go to in the first half to give Colgate a 46-43 lead at the break. It was a lead the Raiders never relinquished.
On a day where Syracuse football and women’s basketball also got smacked down, it’s hard to figure out what to make of this mess. Let’s focus on some quick points to dissect the loss.
Team Depth Is A Glaring Issue
Look, don’t say we didn’t warn you. Here at the Fizz, we just published an article about this very problem that showed itself through the first two non-conference contests. This is a top-heavy team with some talented shooters, but there are problems for each player on the bench. Freshman forward Benny Williams is still too raw to play regularly, center Frank Anselem continues to be physically shoved around defensively, and guard Symir Torrence is now 3-14 from the field in three games this season. It’s not surprising Colgate began chipping into its 23-8 deficit while Joe Girard and Jesse Edwards were both getting breathers on the bench.
An Off Night Offensively
Syracuse scored 85 points in this game, but that total is a little misleading. Roughly a quarter of those points came from free throws (22), and only two of the eight Syracuse players who appeared in this game managed to make a three-pointer. The Orange heaved up 23 three-point attempts, and every player not named Buddy Boeheim or Joe Girard combined to go 0-9.
In the meantime, forwards Jimmy Boeheim and Cole Swider both had off nights. Boeheim looked much less comfortable than he did against Drexel and struggled to a 3-10 shooting night (though he did add 10 rebounds). Meanwhile, Swider finished an uncharacteristic 0-4 from deep. If Syracuse is going to go anywhere this season – or even close out winnable games – it needs better nights from its main contributors.
Defense Not A Strength
It’s no shocker that SU isn’t a rabid defensive team this year. We all expected this to be a run-and-gun outfit that survived shootouts, but allowing 100 points to Colgate was not on anyone’s radar. Syracuse had not allowed even 70 or more points to the Raiders since 1997 and hadn’t given up 100 or more to them since 1966.
Part of the problem is that Colgate hit 18 three-pointers over the top of SU’s patented 2-3 zone. If an ACC or ranked team were to pull that off, we’d all tip our caps. The Raiders being a historic punching bag shouldn’t diminish their impressive shooting display. Don’t forget that this team gave 3 seeded Arkansas all it could handle in last year’s NCAA tournament.
However, SU shoulders blame for its own defensive ineptitude. Junior center Jesse Edwards doesn’t have much starting experience, and he had a somewhat quiet night likely below the standards Jim Boeheim wants to see from him. And yes, in case anyone was wondering, Syracuse looks to have the same rebounding problems it had last year. The Orange lost the battle at the boards 44 to 33 tonight. Hard to win when the other team can’t miss from distance and you can’t take possession of the basketball when they do.