Orange Watch: Syracuse (again) faces potential historical losing streak

Oshae Brissett Notre Dame
Oshae Brissett shoots in the first half of Syracuse's game against Notre Dame. MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: For just the sixth time in Jim Boeheim’s 42 seasons one of his teams has lost four straight games, but no squad has ever lost five in-a-row. As ACC bottom-dweller Pittsburgh (8-10, 0-5) heads into the Dome this evening (9:00 p.m. ET /ACC Regional Sports Networks) with just one less conference win than SU (12-6, 1-4), all eyes will be on this youthful team protecting home court and attempting to build on its four close defeats (6.5 point margin in the four losses, which includes the 11 point differential in the unusual double overtime game last Saturday against Florida State).

It was just last season when we wrote a similar account of the Orange looking to avoid becoming the first group under Boeheim to drop five consecutive games in a season, and it took a unlikely heave of a beyond-the-NBA-arc shot by John Gillon at the buzzer to knock off Duke after three straight losses, which was followed by a road defeat at Louisville.

A joyous moment to be sure to knock off the perennially strong Blue Devils and Coach K in the biggest new rivalry for the program in ACC competition, culminating in a season that ended with a dud of an NIT home loss to Ole Miss, and the subsequent departure of coach-in-waiting Mike Hopkins.

That was a more experienced team in 2017 with grad transfers Gillon and Andrew White and several sophomores, including first round draftee Tyler Lydon, providing plenty of game experience as compared to this year’s bunch of essentially six new faces among the eight scholarship players.

But now the schedule seemingly gets a tad friendlier in a season filled with the one constant of competitive play in virtually all 18 games played so far. First, the struggling Panthers are in town tonight followed by an eight day layoff, before hosting Boston College (13-6, 3-3 with wins over Duke and Florida State) then traveling to Pitt in the next three games.

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As a reminder from last year’s history lesson, minus the updated chapter of the thrilling Duke victory 13 months ago, here’s a recap of the other occasions in which the Orange snapped a four game losing streak under Boeheim:

1991-92 – Despite four consecutive February Big East defeats, the Orangemen were still ranked 22nd when Boston College came to the Dome. With current lead assistant coach Red Autry running the show in the backcourt, along with fellow starters Hopkins, Lawrence Moten, David Johnson, and the late Conrad McRae, SU held of the Eagles 76-70, led by Moten’s 18 points.

2001-02 – In a forgettable year prior to “that championship season,” Syracuse had a three game losing streak to end the regular season, then it was one and done in the Big East tournament falling to Villanova to extend the losing streak to four, ending up 20-11 overall, but relegated to the NIT. In the opening round game at the Dome against longtime upstate rival St. Bonaventure, Preston Shumpert scored 28 points in a 76-66 victory.

2005-06 – This was the closest the losing streak came to being extended to five games. After dropping four straight late January Big East games, Syracuse also dropped out of the Top 25 poll as the Orange hosted Rutgers. With current assistant coach Gerry McNamara (fighting a leg injury) and current basketball performance assistant Eric Devendorf comprising the backcourt, joined in the starting lineup by Mookie Watkins, Terrance Roberts and Demetris Nichols, SU snapped the losing streak in unlikely fashion. Down 84-83 with the ball in the waning seconds of overtime, Roberts, of all players, hit a three pointer from the top of the key at the OT buzzer to send everyone home happy, and relieved with an 86-84 win.

2010-11 – Dropping from third, to ninth, then to 17th in the polls following four straight January Big East losses, SU headed to Connecticut on a stormy winter day/night that dropped 10 inches of snow and ¾ of an inch of ice to the Hartford metro area. The weather didn’t detour the locals from practically filling the downtown XL Center, but they watched an Orange team that hadn’t won in over two weeks playing with a sense of urgency from the opening tip. Brandon Triche had 16 points and Rick Jackson contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds in a 66-58 win over the UConn team that would go on to win the national championship.

In another close call during the 2014-15 NCAA probation season, Syracuse could have had a potential five game losing streak had SU not upset No. 9 Notre Dame in the fourth-to-last game of that year, its biggest win of the season, behind a career-high 19 points from reserve forward B.J. Johnson. After losing to Pitt, the Orange knocked off the Irish in South Bend, then dropped games to Duke, Virginia and the season finale at North Carolina State.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 496 Articles
Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.