After all the celebration and momentum from Saturday’s dramatic win against Miami, Syracuse suffered its first “bad” loss of the season Tuesday night at home against Florida State. The game came down to a handful of things, most notably turnovers and three-point shooting. The Seminoles made only six long balls, but that was five more than the Orange, who turned the ball over 16 times to FSU’s eight. It was not a great night for anyone besides Judah Mintz, and even he was not perfect despite his 28 points. Syracuse also went 22-33 at the foul line (under 67%), not good enough when you get that many opportunities. Not much to cheer about tonight. Let’s check the report card
Adrian Autry: C
Autry had some interesting substitutions in the first half and never used his use-it-or-lose-it timeout, plus the zone did not work well when Syracuse went to it, but his team led at the break. He went away from Copeland entirely after his two fouls and played Mounir Hima for a minute (maybe all he had, but it was a good minute). There were some questionable decisions, but it seemed to end up working out in the first half and early second half. The main problem was some defensive lapses whenever Syracuse went to zone, it was a theme in the first half, and came back in the second. That, turnovers, and three-point shooting were the game.
Judah Mintz: B+
A very strong first half for Mintz against the Seminoles whose ball pressure made it easier for the guard to attack than his teammates because of his handle, quickness, and change of direction. He had 12 points before the intermission and could have had a lot more as he went 4-9 from the free-throw line. His decision-making was solid and he drew a number of fouls throughout to make life really difficult on FSU. With 16 minutes left in the game he had already drawn an estimated 13, and it was getting to the Seminoles, who could not figure out what to do to stop him in the lane. He scored 28 and did all he good, but with that kind of help from his teammates on offense, you have to be perfect, and Syracuse was not.
JJ Starling: B-
Starling started off cold, but his confidence was not lacking as he kept on firing from mid-range and from three. He did not hit a long ball in the first half, but a couple of and-1 opportunities late in the first 20 minutes sparked him to 8 points at the break and you could tell the ball going through the hoop was a good sign. He was very quiet throughout the second half and with Judah dominating the ball did not make much of an impact on the score sheet.
Chris Bell: C-
Bell played 15 minutes in the first half, but it did not feel like it. He was not hesitant to shoot, but only made one of his five attempts and was otherwise not involved a whole lot. He did snatch a few rebounds, but he looks tentative when corralling the ball, so maybe a little confidence can turn his rebounding fortunes. The second half was not much better, as he couldn’t find the stroke and if that is not working there is not much for him to do besides be a decoy.
Justin Taylor: D+
Taylor was badly outsized in this game. He is in most contests, but it was more evident than usual today as he was going up against guys with four or five inches on him. He was not involved at all offensively and just had to stick to his role of doing the dirty work, which he did, but those matchups got him in foul trouble. The second half was not great, as he just struggled athletically against Florida State and Williams was the better play at forward all night.
Maliq Brown: B+
Brown also had to be careful for a lot of the first half because he picked up an early foul and he is so valuable to SU that he can’t afford to get a second. He brought down eight boards in the first half and finished at the rim when he needed to. He did Maliq Brown things, nothing flashy, what you ask for. The definition of do your job. With under 16 minutes to go in the game he already had 10 rebounds, and got involved more offensively as the second half went on as the Seminoles defense collapsed on Mintz. He did have some very uncharacteristic turnovers which hurt Syracuse as FSU was very effective in transition all night.
Quadir Copeland: D+
He played a minute in the first half and picked up two fouls, including an offensive foul, and did not play the rest of the half. Cuffe took basically all of his minutes. Then, he came in during the second half with Brown out in foul trouble and played his classic Quadir game: rebounding, pushing the pace, and getting to the free-throw line. He made a huge difference as the game went back and forth throughout the early part of the second half. But, as it went on, things just never got to where they needed to be, a tough night.
Benny Williams: B
Williams played a good deal in the first half because Syracuse needed someone to match up size-wise with the Seminoles, and at 6’9, he could. He rebounded well (6), finished around the basket, and hustled. The shot is still not there, but if he plays his role, the minutes will be there.
Kyle Cuffe: B+
Cuffe was close to a revelation in the first half, playing eight minutes, scoring five points (third on the team), and contributing in a lot of ways. He may not have great size, but he did a lot of dirty work, and that earned him playing time. It was a really nice performance to keep SU in the game. The second half was not as flashy and there was nothing very noteworthy to mention.