NEW YORK — With Syracuse clinging to a 44-40 lead late in the second half of Monday’s 52-50 loss to Connecticut, Tyler Lydon found himself wide open on the left baseline with five seconds left on the shot clock.
With the crowd in an anticipatory hum, expecting Lydon to fire away, the sophomore instead pump faked and attempted an awkward backhanded flip shot through a pair of UConn defenders, which fell a foot short of the rim as the shot clock expired.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Lydon collectively threw their hands in frustration with another offensive opportunity wasted. It was a microcosm not only of SU’s painful loss to its old Big East rival, but also of Lydon’s season.
“He’s got to look to shoot the ball,” Boeheim said. “He took seven shots and passed up 10. So, I’d like him to shoot 17 times, and if he only hits two or three of them, that’s fine.”
Lydon’s final stat line wasn’t pretty. He finished 1-7 from the field for seven points, his lone field goal coming midway through the second half.
It was a thunderous 3 from NBA range that put Syracuse up by 10 points. In past games, that shot would’ve shaken Lydon from the doldrums. But on Monday, it had no such effect.
“I thought that shot would get me going for sure, but it didn’t,” Lydon said. “My shot feels good. They’re just not falling right now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You’re not going to make every shot you take. It’s just about being confident.”
It was the latest in a line of disappointing games to start the season for Lydon. His field goal percentage is currently 41.4 percent, down from 47.9 percent from his freshman year.
While all of his other numbers have remained mostly the same, Lydon was looked at as a player to pick up the offensive slack for Trevor Cooney, Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinije, departed stalwarts from last year’s Final Four team.
Instead, Lydon has remained timid to shoot, despite teammates and coaches imploring him otherwise.
To save its season, Syracuse, now 5-3, will need more from its star forward.
Part of the solution will be returning to what made Lydon a tantalizing NBA prospect after the 2015-16 season.
“He’s got to take at least six or seven 15-footers,” Boeheim said. “He’s driving. That’s not the strength of his game.”
The other part will be Lydon realizing his own potential.
“I gotta be more aggressive. I need to take more shots. There’s no doubt about that,” Lydon said. “At the end of the day, I try to make the right plays. Some of those times, I felt I could get a better look for another guy on the court and get them a better shot than what I had.”
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