The Syracuse defense dominated early and did enough late, but turnovers cost the Orange a chance at an impressive road win in Ann Arbor against the nationally ranked Michigan Wolverines. Syracuse rallied from a 10-point second half deficit to tie the game in the final minute. After a Spike Albrecht three, Michael Gbinije hit as he was driving the lane. Then chaos ensued.
With less than 20-seconds remaining, Syracuse got exactly what they wanted. Michigan missed the front-end of the one-and-one. Chris McCullough grabbed the rebound and the Orange looked to be in position for a game winning bucket. But he threw the ball out of bounds and turned it over.
There was still plenty of time for Syracuse to foul and hope for more of the same. And that's exactly what happened. After a missed free-throw, McCullough snagged another rebound and passed to Kaleb Joseph. Joseph drove the lane, lost the ball and turned it over again. Two turnovers in the final 20-seconds trailing by just one without a single shot being attempted. Maddening for Orange fans. Expected from true freshmen.
The Wolverines would hit their next two-free throws and a Joseph three at the buzzer fell short. Syracuse lost 68-65 to a very good Michigan team, but this game was very winnable.
Syracuse out-shot Michigan Tuesday night, 50% to 38.5%, but attempted 17 fewer shots. That was due in part to Syracuse's 19 turnovers (compared to just 7 for Michigan), and allowing 17 Wolverine offensive rebounds. The Orange shot a better percentage from beyond the arc, 35.3% to 33.3%, led by Trevor Cooney's 4-9 effort. He finished with a team-high 16 points.
Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough were very good inside. They combined to shoot 12-17 from the floor, scoring 25 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Both had foul trouble but played through it.
WHAT WE LIKED: The Syracuse zone was good and forced a lot of bad shots. They did not give a lot of open looks from the outside, and helped dictate tempo as a result. The offense looked better at times, when they were taking care of the ball. Syracuse showed signs of life from the outside behind Cooney and Joseph. The Orange was not rattled by a hostile environment and even were able to rally from a 10-point deficit late to give themselves a chance to win. All very encouraging signs for the rest of the season.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: Too many turnovers, especially late in the game. Kaleb Joseph was too chaotic on his drive when he lost the ball with less than 10 seconds left down by only a point. McCullough cannot throw the ball away on the previous possession either. Nineteen turnovers in a three point game is going to leave Syracuse feeling like they let one get away. Combine that with allowing 17 offensive rebounds, and it is see why the Orange lost despite playing well enough to pull it out.
KEY MOMENT: Trailing 66-65 with 18 seconds left, Derrick Walton went to the charity stripe. He missed the front-end of the one-and-one, and freshman Chris McCullough grabbed the rebound. Kaleb Joseph and Michael Gbinije were to his left. Gbinije starting running up the floor while Joseph tried to stay behind to get the ball and take it up court. McCullough threw the ball between both of them and directly out of bounds. Seconds later, in a similar situation, McCullough found Joseph in what was still a one point game. Joseph drove to the right baseline, picked up his dribble, pivoted and lost the ball. Michigan would go on to hit their free-throws and pull off the three-point victory.
STATS OF THE DAY: Syracuse was -12 in turnover differential, -7 in offensive rebound differential and -17 in shot attempt differential.
UP NEXT: Syracuse faces St. John's at 5:15pm in the Carrier Dome. The Red Storm are 5-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to #9 Gonzaga in a closely contested neutral court matchup. St. John's is led by senior guard D'Angelo Harrison, who is averaging 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Fellow guard Rysheed Jordan is coming into his own as a sophomore at 17.6 points, 5.2 boards and 3.4 dimes per outing.
Jim Boeheim Post-Game: