For the third consecutive game, Syracuse shot under 40% in their loss at Duke. It was 38.7% to be exact, after performances of 32.3% and 35.2% against Boston College and North Carolina State. The Orange's offensive struggles over the last several games have been well documented.
In prior games, there was a lack of rhythm. A lack of offensive flow. There was too much one-on-one play and not enough ball movement. The team looked lethargic and lacked energy.
Saturday night, they seemed rejuvenated, though the results were largely the same. Syracuse just isn't making shots right now, but things may be turning a corner. The Orange moved the ball well against Duke and were able to get a lot of good looks.
Baye Keita missed two or three easy shots at the rim. Tyler Ennis had his worst shooting game of his career, despite several good looks that just would not fall. Trevor Cooney missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc, all good looks.
The shot selection was much improved from their horrific performance against Boston College. Tyler Ennis ran the half-court offense well and C.J. Fair started to show flashes of his old self.
Fair attacked the rim, hit his trademarked mid-range jumper and showed no signs of being fatigued. Most of all, he did not force the issue. He only had 12 shot attempts, making half of them. A far cry from his 7-23 outing against the Eagles or 5-16 against the Wolfpack.
Still, something has to change in order for the Orange to get their offensive mojo back. Cooney hitting shots from the outside will help. That opens up the floor and gives driving lanes for Fair and Jerami Grant. But Syracuse needs another outside threat to really put pressure on opposing defenses.
Tyler Ennis is the most likely candidate. He is only one for his last seven from beyond the arc, but is still shooting over 35% from the outside on the season. Ennis has the ability to make that shot, it just may take more aggressive play from the true freshman where he looks for his own shot a bit more.
Teams are playing Syracuse to drive. They are giving Grant outside jumpers, and are playing off of Fair more often. They allow Ennis decent looks from the outside, and pack in their defense to crowd the lane.
With a tough final four games coming up for Syracuse, the offense has to turn itself around if they are to get where they want to be. That does not mean 90-point outings with 55% shooting regularly. That simply means 42-48% shooting on average along with more energy on that end of the floor.
The performance against Duke, despite the shooting percentage, may be a sign that they are coming out of their funk.