Syracuse has now won two straight(!) conference games, against Wake Forest, and Wednesday night over NC State. Both came with massive scoring outputs after some anemic offensive performances from the “best shooting team” Jim Boeheim has ever seen. The Orange are in desperate need of big-time wins to climb their way back into the tournament conversation, and if they keep up this momentum, the snowball could just grow large enough in a bad ACC to scare some folks in the conference tournament and have a legit chance at March Madness.
So what has powered Syracuse to wins over two tough opponents from the Tar Heel State?
Dominating The Second Half
First and foremost, Syracuse has come gangbusters out of the locker room over the past week. SU put up 55 second half points against Wake Forest (more than Jim Boeheim’s team scored the entire game against Pitt), and tossed in 47 against NC State. Buddy Boeheim went on a personal 8-0 four minutes into last’s Saturday second half, and completely put the Demon Deacons away. Against the Wolfpack, the scoring came in waves, a 11-0 run here, a 10-2 spurt there, as multiple players canned big shots. The Orange shot 77% in the second half. On Saturday, one could chalk it up to the home crowd or the presence of Giannis urging on the team. However, outscoring NC State by 10 on Wednesday in a tough road environment proves second-half sparks are something this team can consistently produce.
Attacking the Key
SU was supposed to be a team that bombed away from three-point range. And early on, against inferior competition, it worked. But it’s tougher to create shots against better defenders in conference play. So against teams without legitimate big men (Wake doesn’t really have a center, NC State’s two best bigs were out), the Orange fed Jesse Edwards early in the post, and allowed players to attack the basket, scoring 42 and 36 points in the paint, respectively. Jimmy Boeheim’s 8-9 stat line against the Wolfpack (with 0 attempted threes) was exactly what an inside-centric approach should produce time after time.
Cole Swider has been on fire over the past two games. The Villanova transfer is 15-21 from the field and 6-6 from three, after a slow conference slate (37% FG). With teams keying into Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard, Swider and Edwards are the players which need to step up. If the senior has finally found his stroke, watch out. SU now has three players who can shoot a team out of the gym.
Defense hasn’t exactly been a strong point for the Orange in these past two games. Wake shot 48% from the floor, and NC State made 41% of its threes. But who cares?! If the SU offense is humming, anything is possible, including a march towards March.