Through roughly a third of the college basketball season, the Orange is looking… well, fine. Middling, pedestrian, not bad, not particularly good, just average. A shocking 100-85 loss to Colgate in the third game of the season should have sobered the team to the reality it needs to work hard every night to get results.
But Syracuse has also had a few solid performances, including the exciting 112-110 double-overtime victory against Indiana and the upset of FSU 63-60. FSU’s 25-game ACC homecourt winning streak was snapped and Cole Swider’s 16-point, 10 rebound effort was a big reason why.
Not only did Swider make big plays but he made them when it counted most like free-throws with 10 seconds remaining and SU up by only one point. After the 6’9” senior was fouled he coolly walked to the bench, grabbed a towel to dry his hands, and flashed a quick wink to his teammates as if to say, “Relax, I’ve got this.”
He sunk both at the charity stripe and Florida State never scored another bucket.
“Just win the game,” Swider said of his thought process when stepping to the line. “We practice that every single day. Coach Boeheim at the end of every practice puts us on the free-throw line and if you miss, you run. We’re used to that.”
“I had no worries at all,” teammate Buddy Boeheim said. “I knew right away he was going to make both.”
“I didn’t have a doubt,” head coach Jimmy Boeheim added. “(I have) a lot of confidence in him. We all do.”
But that victory has not proven to be the seminal moment most fans were hoping for. There was the 67-53 loss to No. 6 Villanova before falling 79-75, to Georgetown on December 11th. The Orange were installed as 8 ½ point neutral-site underdogs to Nova and SU still couldn’t cover the number. Four days later the oddsmakers made the Orange three-point road favorites against the Hoyas and lost outright. Ugh.
Orange Needs to Get Defensive
Playing defense has always been the key to good SU basketball. But getting players to buy into it is easier said than done. The great teams do it and it can make SU more competitive.
Boeheim is not oblivious to his team’s defensive shortcomings. After the loss to Georgetown, the 77-year-old coach was asked about the team’s performance.
“I think one of our issues is we do not get to the ball quickly. We’re not a physical rebounding type team. We are probably going to get on the boards a little bit, get beat a little bit. Again, today is fine,” said Boeheim. “Six seven rebounds is something we can live with. But we’ve got to be better offensively and we’ve got to get defensive stops. It wasn’t the rebounding as much as the stops. We have to play better defense in the half-court situations.”
Syracuse is getting outrebounded by three boards per game and opponents are scoring an average of 77.9 points per contest which ranks the Orange at No. 326 of 350 D-1 teams. Syracuse is allowing 34.1 percent of their opponents to connect from beyond the arc. It’s no wonder why the defense is first and foremost on Boeheim’s mind as he commented further after the Georgetown loss.
“Overall, our defense wasn’t good enough. I think the game swung a little bit at the start of the second half. We had a good, wide-open play to Jesse who bobbled it out of bounds. Then we missed a couple shots and now it’s anybody’s game. When we’re struggling a little bit on the defensive end, we’ve got to be more efficient on offense. First half we were, second half we weren’t.”
Syracuse will be looking to get well over as ACC play starts. Make sure to review all the NCAAB picks before the games. Georgia Tech and Virginia will come calling before the team departs for Miami to meet the Hurricanes on their home court. Hopefully, the defense will come into focus after this most recent loss, allowing Syracuse to climb the ACC ladder.