SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse (14-6, 5-2) lost to Miami (14-5, 4-2) 66-62 after battling back from a double digit deficit multiple times in Saturday night’s game. They faltered at the free-throw line throughout, missing 11 of their 19 attempts.
Miami shot 41% from the field compared to Syracuse’s 44%, but made 10 three-pointers in the Carrier Dome, including a clutch triple from guard Manu Lecomte at the buzzer of the shot clock to put Miami up four with less than 20 seconds remaining.
Trevor Cooney would answer with one of his three trifectas moments later to cut the lead back to one. He finished with 14 points.
But after Angel Rodriguez hit two free throws, Cooney air-balled a long range attempt and then Christmas missed two free throws of his own to seal the win for the Hurricanes.
The most frustrating sequence happened midway through the second half when Syracuse was trying to climb back from a 12 point deficit. After they trimmed the lead to eight, Gbinije missed a dunk moments after missing a free-throw on an old fashioned three point play attempt.
Less than two minutes later, Gbinije missed the front end of a one-and-one with the lead at just three points. A little over one minute later, Cooney went one for two from the charity stripe.
All in all, over the final 11 minutes, Syracuse went 6-14 from the free throw line. That was the difference in the game.
”We played more than well enough to win,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “You can’t miss those free throws. That’s it. We’re not that good. If we miss eleven free throws in the next game in a close game, we’ll lose.”
Syracuse trailed by 24-14 in the first half, but was able to bounce back with a 12-2 run over the final eight minutes to tie the game heading into the locker room. Miami promptly hit back to back three pointers to start the second half and controlled the game from there.
Tyler Roberson was the best player for the Orange in the first half, controlling the glass on both ends and leading them in scoring. He finished the game with 10 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal.
Christmas struggled early, but had a big second half to finish with 23 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. But he turned it over five times and made only five of his 11 free throw attempts. Gbinije struggled shooting the ball, finishing with 9 points on 3-8 shooting including 1-4 from beyond the arc and 2-6 from the free throw line.
WHAT WE LIKED: Syracuse was able to battle back from two double digit deficits and had ample opportunity to take control of the game in the second half. They shot a higher percentage from the floor over all and three point line than Miami. They also outrebounded the Hurricanes 40-32. Tyler Roberson was a force on the glass with 14 boards.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: The obvious. Free throw shooting. You can’t shoot a higher percentage from the floor (44%) than you do from the free-throw line (42%) and expect to win. Rakeem Christmas has been a steady contributor from the line all season and missed six attempts. Gbinije continues to struggle from there. It was an awful shoting from the charity stripe.
KEY MOMENT: With Syracuse trailing by one point late, Manu Lecomte hit a three-pointer with Trevor Cooney in his face at the shot block buzzer with 18 seconds to go. After Cooney answered with a triple of his own, Angel Rodriguez hit two free-throws with 11 seconds left. Cooney drove the length of the floor and air-balled an attempted tying three. On the subsequent inbounds play, Cooney passed to Christmas who was trying to give it back to the sharp shooting guard for a corner triple attempt. However, Miami fouled Christmas who missed both free-throws, sealing Syracuse’s fate.
QUOTABLE: “The team’s battling as hard as they can. We’re a very thin team, obviously. We couldn’t afford another injury. We thought we may have DaJuan (Coleman) and didn’t get him and then Chris goes back. Chris (McCullough) hurts us in more ways. He’s our backup center. He’s a good backup center. That’s where we really miss him to give Rak some time there and also to give Tyler (Roberson) some rest. That hurts us. Those things hurt you. We haven’t stepped up in a couple other positions where we need to, play better. At the end of the day, you can overcome missed free throws but you have to play really well to do it. And we played pretty well today.”
-- Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim
STATS OF THE DAY: Syracuse shot better from the field (44%) than they did from the free-throw line (42%). Miami, however, made four more three-pointers than Syracuse (10-6). Syracuse turned it over five more times (13-8) and made two fewer free throws despite five more attempts. Tonye Jekiri led Miami with 13 points and 15 rebounds including stellar defense on Christmas in the first half.
NOTES: Crowd of 30,677 is the largest on campus crowd in college basketball this season. Expect this to be broken when Syracuse faces Duke next month. Former Syracuse star Ryan Blackwell was at the Dome to check out the Orange.
UP NEXT: Syracuse hits the road to face North Carolina on Monday, January 26th at 7:00pm..
Jim Boeheim Post-Game