January 13, 2016
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The scoreboard would tell you different, but it wasn’t pretty and the Orange know that. More importantly, head coach Jim Boeheim knows it, and he was not completely pleased with a 22-point victory over Boston College, 62-40.
“We made four or five bad turnovers that we can’t make,” said Boeheim. “At this point in the season, we cannot be making those turnovers and we still have things to work on.”
Important from your leader to not be satisfied, and considering the sluggish start for Syracuse which barely led to 30 points at halftime, no one in the locker room was really happy with the win. It is good to get out of the ACC cellar with a victory, but sometimes it still doesn’t taste as sweet as one would like against one of the worst teams in the Power 5 conferences, that being Boston College.
The Eagles in many ways would struggle to hang with some of the mid and low major teams in the nation. It certainly shows from their previous schedule, with no big wins, just victories over the likes the Central Connecticut, Delaware and Fordham. BC managed only 15 points at the break, and 25 in the second half. Not to mention 31.9% (15-47) from the field, 23.1% (6-26) from the three point line and 44.4% (4-9) at the charity stripe. Other than the 10:31 mark in the first half, in which the score was tied at 11, did Boston College ever really seem to be in the game.
Syracuse, as passionate fans know, always plays to the level of their opponents. Slow and sluggish against the weaker ones, and very engaged against the strong ones (insert North Carolina). Tonight was no different, but the Eagles are even more anemic offensively than Syracuse can be at times, and you wonder if they can get more than a conference win all season.
“We limited their post touches and I thought overall our defense was good,” Boeheim said.
In a game where scoring was at a premium, due to lethargic offense on both sides, the ‘Cuse did force 16 turnovers. Boston College even shot two air balls on consecutive possessions late in the second half, and finished the game with an alley-oop attempt that went out of bounds and untouched. Only one player, Eli Carter (13) scored in double figures, and no other Eagle notched more than six points.
Was it bad offense? Good defense? Or a combination of both? Either way it was an ACC victory for Syracuse, and something they badly needed. They no longer will be in last place in the conference, and some positivity appears to be on the horizon with gaining confidence in the program.
“First ACC win was big for us,” said Malachi Richardson. “We need to continue that on the road, and then come back home and get more wins.”
Richardson is finally starting to see the light that maybe he needs to be the scoring leader on this team. His 15 points tonight led all scorers, in a game where neither team scored consistently. But, you can see that Malachi wants the ball, and is taking NBA style drives to the basket which gets him to the foul line. He was 100% tonight on 6-6 shooting at the line, adding three rebounds and three assists. This really helps Michael Gbinije in the backcourt, when he is asked to play the whole game and stuff the stat sheet in seemingly every column.
“I just want to make plays when I see spaces and opportunities to get the basket,” Richardson said. “I took my time, stayed patient and I was ready in the second half.”
He only took one shot in the first half, a three pointer that was off the mark. But, you could definitely see in the second half as he made the first basket of the frame (putting SU up 32-17), Richardson was engaged and assertive. Tyler Roberson joined him, with another plugged in night. “Robey” had 10 points, 12 rebounds, along with an assist and a steal. This seemed to please Coach Boeheim and he expressed it during the post-game press conference.
“Tyler Roberson was really active,” said Boeheim. “But, we need to play well enough to get accomplished what we want to, and right now we are not doing that.”
Always a balance of positive and negative from a coach that has prided himself on looking for ways to improve, not often relishing the good stuff. The Orange will need that attention to detail with a difficult road trip ahead. Syracuse will face a tough coastal stretch Saturday at Wake Forest (1/16, 12:00 p.m. ACC Network), then Monday at Duke (1/18, 7 p.m. ESPN) and then closing the trip the following Saturday at Virginia (1/23, 12:00 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2).
The Demon Deacons are nearly identical to SU (10-6, 1-3) and one spot above them in the standings. Nevertheless, tobacco road can be unkind to all who venture that way, and #9 Duke will likely be pumped coming off tonight’s loss (68-63) to Clemson (11-6, 4-1) the surprise team in the conference thus far. Virginia is not who they were last year (13-3, 2-2), but are still #13 in the country and a tough out at home.
So, this upcoming week will say a lot about the remaining hopes for the Orange this year. Three losses will bury them, but a win or two will prove that they can still hang with the top of the conference and maybe continue to possess post season aspirations.