Sigh. Syracuse comes up short in another game it should have won. SU came back with a big fourth quarter and took a 13-12 lead with about two minutes to go but couldn’t hold on. UNC punched in a pair of late scores to survive the ‘Cuse in Chapel Hill. This was a very impressive effort from Gary Gait’s team but there are still a lot of mistakes that need to be pointed out on both ends of the field. Let’s review the film from Saturday.
This is an example of the narrative surrounding this defense for the past few weeks. SU plays way too aggressive and hurts itself by being over ambitious. In this situation, Brendan Curry is playing defensive midfield which is less than ideal. This causes Landon Clary (30) to provide way too much help because he probably doesn’t trust Curry on the defensive end. As a result, Clary vacates his man and Cole Herbert (1) has an easy step down shot for a goal.
Lucas Quinn (26) is back after missing over a month of action with injury. The midfielder ran with the second line against the Tar Heels. The upperclassmen has valuable experience which SU missed without him. Dodging isn’t Quinn’s game, he’s more of a distributor and shooter. So when the Niskayuna native took the ball to “X” he had every intention of finding a receiver. That’s exactly what Quinn did finding Tucker Dordevic at the point. The attacker snuck from the wing to the top of the box as his defender was ball watching. You know how this ends…
This was a mistake from North Carolina. The Tar Heels took a page out of Syracuse’s book by being too eager to cause a turnover. UNC sends a double team, Jacob Buttermore (31) recognizes it and finds Brendan Curry for an open shot to close the first half. This is where SU is at its best, when the ball is rotating and staying hot!
Again there’s just no need to help here. Dami Oladunmoye (35) can’t allow Herbert to get top side but he’s still in good position here. Saam Olexo (48) stays put and doesn’t follow the eventual goal scorer out to the wing. So this is now two defensive lapses by the LSM’s, a position that has struggled this season in the defensive end. The large point here is that this defense NEEDS TO TRUST ITSELF. Honestly, this also just simply needs to be a save from Harrison Thompson.
It’s a broken record at this point, just watch Nick Caccamo (28) and every other defender in front of the net.
A rare mistake here from Curry. The 3x All-American was trying to connect with Buttermore but he’s just simply not open. Even if the senior makes this catch there is nowhere to go with the rock. Curry should have just passed it to the top of the box so SU could reset its offense. As you can see, this turnover leads to a transition goal for North Carolina.
Curry comes right back minutes later and makes up for his mistake. UNC slid early on the midfielder which left Jackson Birtwistle wide open in the slot. This is great vision from the Calvert Hall product and even better recognition by the redshirt-freshman to make himself available knowing that he’s open. Birtwistle logged a lot of minutes in the second half at attack. The underclassman previously did most of his damage at midfield but he replaced Mikey Berkman in the attacking third. Should be interesting to see of the former top-15 attack recruit can make more of an impact in SU’s offensive end.
No reason for Clary to slide here. Brandon Aviles (43) has good defensive positioning on his man. Clary leaves his assignment and he scores easily. Another point regarding this is that if SU decides to slide and if Clary goes then there needs to be a full rotation. In a lot of these defensive breakdowns its because Syracuse plays to over aggressive yes, but even if they do there need to be supplemental slides to fill the gaps and replace open men.
Syracuse is highly efficient when it gets transition opportunities. Think back to the Duke game when the ball was on the turf every five seconds and the Orange had run out opportunities. This play all starts with forcing a turnover on the defensive end and then advancing the ball up the field. SU had numbers and it knew that. So the five men on the left end did a spectacular job keeping the ball moving for the dunk.
Brendan Curry. This is what should’ve been the game-winning goal. Love the play design bringing a dummy screen with Jacob Buttermore. Curry is the fastest player on the team and cuts on an absolute dime to get a step on his defender and unleash a howitzer past Collin Krieg.
This is pretty solid defense from Syracuse. Brett Kennedy completely locks off Chris Gray. However this leaves a 5 on 5 situation and Carter Rice gets burned on the invert making it a quick 5 on 4. SU recovers pretty well as Grant Murphy floats out for the two slide. Lance Tillmon (0) applies a nastiest shot fake on the senior defender though which puts him in a blender and results in the equalizer. Advice for that play? Don’t get sent into a tornado by a shot fake? IDK.
This is Chris Gray just being Chris Gray. Syracuse did well enough to earn a stop here with good rotations and movements. This needs to be a save from Bobby Gavin. The UNC attacker is off balance and jumping away from the goal and yet he still beats the sophomore with a soft bouncer.
Tough scenes for Syracuse. For the second straight game the Orange played well enough to win but gave up a late lead and fall in heartbreak fashion. The biggest takeaways from this game are that the defense is still plaguing itself by not trusting itself and the goaltending play continued to be weak like it has been all year. SU will finish a season below .500 for the first time since 2007 but you can’t help but about where the Orange would be if they executed better down the stretch in close games in 2022.