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Fizz Film Room: How Losing Jesse Edwards Affects SU’s Offense

Photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Welcome into the Fizz Film Room. Today we’re going to be looking at the offensive strides Jesse Edwards has made this season, and how his ability to play so well within the pick and roll was the main reason for Syracuse’s win streak.

Over the last few games, Edwards (outside of BC) was blossoming into one of the best centers of the ACC. After two straight games with 19 points, Edwards laid a dud against Boston College, scoring 0 points and fouling out. But that wasn’t the biggest blow of the night. 

The team officially announced Thursday morning that Edwards fractured his left wrist late in the second half and will miss the rest of the season. Frank Anselem stepped up and played 23 minutes due to foul trouble, and he’ll likely be called upon to move into the starting role. 

Anselem has been good in flashes, but it’s a huge jump to go from his current role to what Edwards was doing on both ends of the floor. Let’s take a look at a couple of plays from the first half of the Louisville game to show how SU was able to dominate the Cardinals.

Starting here, the Cardinals are pressuring Buddy Boeheim on the ball so Edwards sets a high screen. Louisville hedges, allowing Edwards to make a bee-line for the rim, where he’s shot over 65% this season.

(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

With two players on Boeheim, the rest of the Cardinals defense has to collapse on a rolling Edwards to the rim. Leaving Joe Girard and Cole Swider (both about 40% 3 point shooters) alone on the left-wing.

(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

Look at this. Not only has Edwards improved his finishing and catching ability, but his passing as well. He’s able to catch the ball near the foul line, draw the attention of three Louisville defenders on the block, and fire a one-handed cross-court pass to Swider who nailed an open three. That’s just one outcome of the pick-and-roll offense.

Let’s move just one possession later. Edwards sets another high screen for Boeheim, who gets trapped by a couple of defenders on the left wing. Edwards, knowing he’s open, puts his hand up and starts streaking down the lane.

(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

Then, when the defense does not collapse on him, he’s able to use his size (6’11, 228 lbs) to finish through contact over smaller defenders (Samuel Williamson, 6’7, 205 lbs).

(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

These couple of plays in the first half allowed Syracuse to get out to a fast start against Louisville, and never look back. The Orange never trailed in this game, and that’s because of how well the pick-and-roll offense worked for SU.

Let’s look at one final play, this time in the second half. With the Orange up big, they go right back to the well that got them there, just with a bit of twist. First, Edwards here sets a down screen for Boeheim to free him up to get the ball from Girard.

(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

Then, Edwards goes to set another screen on the ball for Boeheim, but is smart enough to realize Louisville’s trapping, and slips right to the rim.

(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

The slip happens so quickly that the Cardinals defense, all turned towards shooters on the perimeter, have no time to recover and Edwards has an easy dunk at the rim.

(Screenshot courtesy of ESPN)

The junior center’s play in the pick-and-roll is a huge reason SU has won four games in a row and is key to the success of Syracuse’s offense. Edwards was playing his best basketball at the right time, and now Jim Boeheim has to go back to the drawing board for how whoever starts in the middle will operate on offense.

Frank Anselem is the most likely candidate to fill Edwards’ void, and only time will tell to see if he’s ready. 

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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