January 10th, 2016
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Old leader, same old story. Jim Boeheim’s return was not as joyous as all of Orange Nation would have hoped, as the ‘Cuse found themselves again on the short end of a hard fought game. Just another example of how this team fails to close out games in “winning time,” because they lack the depth to do so, but certainly not the effort.
The loss to North Carolina, 84-73, maintains one of their worst starts in school history (0-4, ACC) as a member of a conference. Again, it cannot be said that the players aren’t working hard, quite the contrary. Tyler Roberson (32), Malachi Richardson (35), Michael Gbinije (37) and Trevor Cooney (39) each played nearly the entire 40 minutes on the floor. Even DaJuan Coleman added an uncharacteristic 27 minutes and Tyler Lydon played 23 minutes of his own. So, it can never be said that the Orange aren’t playing hard.
Prognosticators probably would never even have predicted that Syracuse would be tied at the half (33-33) to the #6/7 team in the nation. Nor would they have expected that SU would win the battle on the glass, 35-33. Furthermore, Orange basketball historians would have been shocked to see a ‘Cuse team shoot 83.3% (10-12) from the free-throw line. A lot of hidden stats that prove this group will never give up without a fight.
But, the facts are the facts, and it has appeared all season that in the later moments of games they struggle to pull out a victory. Trevor Cooney did everything he could to keep Syracuse in the game. His 27 points (five three pointers) and 5 rebounds were the only consistent spark that allowed the Orange to continually claw back to regain the lead or stay in the game. It was probably his best game of the season thus far, and one of those classic Cooney performances where the Dome crowd erupts like a volcano after every made three pointer.
“No matter how hard we really play, a loss is a loss,” said Gbinije. “We just need to do more on the offensive and defensive end.”
The ‘Cuse managed six blocks in the game, led by Tyler Lydon’s four, but 13 turnovers make it difficult to be efficient on the offensive end. Three pointers made by the Orange, nine in total, seemed to come in big moments but when you attempt 31 you are bound to have “one-shot and out” possessions. Taking care of the ball is critical when the score was tied seven times and there were 16 lead changes.
“Right now we need to play with a sense of urgency,” Gbinije said. “Regardless of who we are playing, we just need to focus in and get that competitive edge.”
Syracuse may be able to draw some of that competitive edge by watching tonight’s game film, particularly the play of Isaiah Hicks. Hicks dominated the Orange with 21 points and eight rebounds. In crunch time, following the last media timeout, he scored five points which included a three-point play and one of many emphatic two-handed slams that he had throughout the game. Hicks was tenacious on the boards and was able to get to the free-throw line, which allowed the Tar Heels to have quality possessions down the stretch and control the tempo. It was at that same point in the game when North Carolina found themselves down 66-64, and turned it around to an 84-73 victory. They also featured a balanced attack as Brice Johnson (16), Justin Jackson (16) and Joel Barry II (14) also provided double-figures in scoring.
The best defensive accomplishment might have come for Syracuse in slowing down the highly touted North Carolina guard, Marcus Paige. Paige only scored six points, after tallying 30 against Florida State. But, Head Coach Jim Boeheim still wasn’t pleased with the overall defensive effort in the latter minutes of the second half.
“The last six minutes our forwards just didn’t do the job defensively,” Boeheim said. “We didn’t get back into our zone and we gave up lay ups that we hadn’t given up the whole game.”
“We made the same defensive break downs about five times,” he said. “You can’t do that and win.”
Coach Boeheim’s attitude was all business, and certainly did not want his recent suspension to have any impact on what happened on the floor. His ovation meant something to him, you could tell, but overall he was back as captain of the ship and was not into discussing the past. Except for maybe a little jab towards the NCAA:
“I’ve coached twelve hundred games,” said Boeheim. “Well I’ve only coached eleven hundred, I’m sorry ... I forgot that (referring to wins that were vacated as a result of the NCAA’s ruling). It’s not something new.”
Up Next for Syracuse (10-7 overall, 0-4 ACC): Traditional Big East and current ACC foe, Boston College comes to town on Tuesday night (1/13) at 7 p.m. The Eagles are 7-8 overall with two convincing losses in the ACC to Duke (81-64) and Notre Dame (82-54). The broadcast will be via the Regional Sports Network. Check local listings for channel in your area.