Opponents find success shooting over SU’s zone

Kris Joseph had seen this before.

When he looked up at the scoreboard heading into halftime during Syracuse’s game against West Virginia on Monday, he saw West Virginia had already hit seven 3-pointers.

At that point, West Virginia had found a way to beat Syracuse’s zone and took a 30-26 lead into halftime.

“I feel like that’s déjà vu every time we play teams,” Joseph said to reporters after the game. “Everyone really wakes up to play Syracuse, especially in the Dome. They’re going to make shots.”

The shots Joseph was referring to were 3-pointers, the perfect answer to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.

“Sometimes you cannot stop that open shot, whether you are playing zone or man,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said during his press conference following Monday’s game. “People are going to get 3-point shots.”

That’s been especially true recently.

In Syracuse’s previous game against Louisville, the Cardinals shot 13-for-27 from downtown to hand SU a 73-69 loss. That came one game after the Hoyas beat the Orange at the Carrier Dome, thanks to 9-for-21 shooting from distance.

Perhaps the biggest — and most frustrating — example of this during Big East play was Syracuse’s 90-68 loss to Seton Hall at home on Jan. 25. In that game, the Pirates put on an incredible shooting display, hitting more than 58 percent of its 3-point shots.

“We didn’t play well,” Boeheim said. “And Seton Hall made every shot. That can happen.”

One of the keys for SU as the regular season comes to a close is how SU will respond when it gives up a 3.

“We just have to overcome that,” Joseph said. “We just have to make sure we keep with it and keep our defensive mindset.”

That’s an easy thing to say, but following it hasn’t been easy.

“During the last couple of games, when they made shots, we were low,” Scoop Jardine said to reporters after Monday’s game.

Fortunately for the Orange, that wasn’t the case against West Virginia. Although Syracuse trailed by four at halftime, the Orange was able to tighten its defense and limited West Virginia to just four 3-pointers in the second half.

Mountaineer guard Casey Mitchell did most of the damage from 3-point land for the Mountaineers, as he finished with 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting from downtown.

But Mitchell’s shooting performance didn’t bother the Orange as much.

“Mitchell hit some tough shots but all contested shots,” Jardine said. “We can live with that. We kept our heads high when they made shots.”

That mentality aided in Syracuse ending its two-game losing streak with a 63-52 win.

“Basketball is a game of runs, and we knew that,” Jardine said. “We stayed within ourselves and won the game.”

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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