Well, it’s time to wave the white flag. Syracuse drops its sixth game in its last eight contests after a 64-53 loss to the 8-12 Pitt Panthers. This defeat is the culmination of so many issues that have surrounded this team over the course of the season.
This game started as most Syracuse contests do, with the Orange starting off on the right foot. Buddy Boeheim made a trio of triples and SU found itself up 21-11 with six minutes to go in the half. But then Pitt responded with a 13-7 finish to the break, which included Joe Girard’s continual struggles (0-of-5 from the field in the first half) and the Orange down in the rebounding department, 28-19.
That kickstarted a complete turnaround in favor of the home team. Pitt, a team that shoots a combined 30% from the three, made 6-of-12 from distance in the second half and the blame should be placed on SU’s defense. The Orange failed to keep the ball out of the high post which led to a numerous amount of open shots and drives to the rim. As a result, four Panthers scored in double figures for the fourth time this season. Senior guard Jamarius Burton logged his 13th consecutive game with more than ten points, while Mouhamadou Gueye finished with an impressive statline of 19 points and 11 rebounds, just the senior’s fourth double-double of his career. Plus, the leading scorer for Pitt didn’t a poor day either, tallying 11 points and snatching down a career-high 18 boards.
“Overall, the defense numbers are fine. We’re not winning games scoring 53 points, it’s not who we are. Nothing about this game is about defense. We have to score to win.” – Jim Boeheim on defense
The Orange couldn’t stop anything in the final 20 minutes, with the Panthers upping their shooting percentage from 21% in the first half to 50% in the final frame. But, that wasn’t all that plagued the Cuse.
“We have to score points and this is now two games in a row that we couldn’t get anything going offensively.” – Jim Boeheim
Syracuse’s offense halted after the first half break. Although a 28-point first half is mediocre, a top five scoring offense in the ACC should respond much better than dropping only 25 in the second half. The Orange finished with a 30% clip from the field and had no answers beside Buddy Boeheim. The senior finished with 25 points and four of SU’s measly six threes on the night. Starting guard Joe Girard played yet another awful game, and it can be pegged as much worse with his backup Symir Torrence sideline due to injury. The junior was without a point until a meaningless three fell with 30 seconds left. In his last two games, JG3’s statline reads ten points on 4-of-22 from the field and 2-of-15 from distance and nine turnovers. In fact, the Glens Falls native had double the amount of turnovers than he did points against Pitt.
“I don’t know. You don’t need to ask me that questions because it’s obvious he’s not playing well, there’s nothing I can do about it, he’s got to do something about it.” – Jim Boeheim on why Joe is struggling
So can it get worse? The answer is yes. Forwards Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim combined to shoot 6-of-24 from the field and totaled 17 points. Each player was one rebound shy of their point total which is great in the boards department, but exposes how poor the two are on the offensive side this late into the season.
“This is the same game as last (time Syracuse played Pitt), but the offense couldn’t get going. Joe and Cole have to be contributors, if they’re not, we’re going to struggle… we’re not going to win games scoring in the 50s. For us to be successful, we have to have the balance from those guys.” – Jim Boeheim on the offense
All of these factors, coupled with the idea that the Orange beat this same Panthers team 77-61 just weeks ago, doesn’t even scrape the surface of issues Syracuse continues to deal with. The biggest one involves a player who barely saw the floor. Five-star recruit Benny Williams was on the court for a final three minutes that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of the game. This just adds to the narrative of why Williams is probably one foot out the door. In fact, John Bol Ajak, who was in the transfer portal before deciding to return this past year, played a career-high ten minutes in a game that the Orange had to have. Even Frank Anselem, who provides much-needed backup to Jesse Edwards only played six minutes.
It doesn’t seem like Jim Boeheim is ever preparing for potential in the future, and with this year’s team, he needs to. With Ajak playing absolutely zero role moving forward, the appeal to get him some run is inefficient and the best way to lose even more recruits.
Williams has played 19 minutes in the last four games combined, while Anselem has totaled 23 minutes during that stretch. This is concerning, period. But with how the team is playing now, everything is a concern, and it seems that the only way to aid this ailing group is to hope for some consistency as February rolls around. Other than that, the Orange are 9-11 overall, 3-6 in conference, and just fell to an ACC bottom feeder in most statistical categories, which now places SU down in the depths of the conference and even further in jeopardy of missing the Big Dance.
“I’m concerned about winning a game, are you kidding me? Do you see anything that looks like a tournament team out there? Do you? Well then why ask the question? We’re concerned about winning a game, period.” – Jim Boeheim on his level of concern of missing the tournament
A solution could be a reset on Saturday, or with Symir Torrence out, playing Buddy at the point (even though his father said that wouldn’t be the case for more than a few minutes), but whatever it is, the season is waining down and the Orange are running out of answers. Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest sin’t a must-win, but it would go a long way to creating a debate to whether this team even has a fighter’s chance at a postseason run.
But for now, each game is as laughable and disappointing as the last.