Syracuse men‚Äôs basketball earned a 77-61 win over Pittsburgh last night at the Carrier Dome. Buddy Boeheim got back on track for the Orange with 24 points while playing all 40 minutes. SU outscored the Panthers by 15 in the second half and earned its first win in 2022.
Despite the win, there were still several concerning trends for the Orange in their second ACC win of the season.¬†
1. Defense struggles again
After last night, Syracuse‚Äôs defense marginally improved to 200th in defensive efficiency on kenpom.com. Pittsburgh shot 50% from the field and just under 42% from behind the arc in the first half. The Panthers only shoot 31% from long range on average for the season. Syracuse also committed 20 fouls last night, forcing Jim Boeheim to substitute more than usual at the end of the first half with his starting forwards in foul trouble. Overall, Pitt is 214th on kenpom in offensive efficiency, and allowing them to score 34 first-half points and shoot effectively from the field was discouraging, to say the least.
2. Jesse can‚Äôt put it all together
It was a very up and down night for Jesse Edwards, who was benched in the first half, started the second half with strong play, and then fouled out late. It was the fifth straight game the junior center departed early because of mistakes on the defensive end of the floor. The Dutchmen filled the box score, with 12 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks, but had those five fouls. His subpar rotations on defense in the first half led Jim Boeheim to give Frank Anselem seven minutes, where he played well. Edwards has all the tools to play 30-35 minutes a night without fouling, but he is still very clearly in the learning phase. The junior continues to have a long way to go.
3. Free Throw Shooting
After last year where the Orange had their best season at the line in the entire tenure of Jim Boeheim, SU has fallen back to Earth. Syracuse left ten points on the board and went 21-31 (just under 68%) at the charity stripe. Thankfully, Pitt also missed eight free throws, as the Orange kept them at arm’s length throughout the second half. For the season, Syracuse is shooting a respectable 72% at the line, but that‚Äôs spearheaded by the trio of Buddy Boeheim, Cole Swider, and Joe Girard, who are all above 85%. The rest of the main contributors are all below 70% including Jesse Edwards at just above 60%, Jimmy Boeheim at 58.5%, with Symir Torrence and Benny Williams down below 50%. Surprisingly, Frank Anselem is fourth on the team at just above 68%, but that‚Äôs on limited attempts. Last year, Syracuse shot over 78% from the line as a team, with four players at 78% or better. 2022 obviously brings a very different team than 2021, but free throws matter. Jimmy Boeheim and Jesse Edwards, two frontcourt players who like to attack the basket and draw fouls, must start improving and convert on these opportunities.