Syracuse imperils its NCAA Tournament chances as perimeter defense falters

Jim Boeheim
Jim Boeheim speaks to a referee during the first half of Syracuse's game. Mandatory Photo Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

Syracuse’s typically dominant defense struggled on Wednesday in a 74-70 loss to NC State, one with potentially damaging repercussions come March.

Entering the game, Syracuse had the second-best defense in the ACC, allowing under 63 points per game. Meanwhile, NC State’s offense was ranked within the top five in the conference, averaging 80.9 points per game.

Offense won out this time, as Syracuse failed to defend the 3-point line. The Wolfpack shot 10-for-23 from behind the arc for the game and 7-for-13 in the second half.

“We gave them really good looks from three,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “They’re a good shooting team and they made them. Our defense just wasn’t good enough. That’s really the story of the game.”

That was especially the case with the game tied at 70 after Oshae Brissett’s 3-pointer with a minute to go. After an NC State timeout, Markell Johnson sank a go-ahead 3 and Brissett missed a potential tying shot on the next possession.

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The Wolfpack shot 55.1 percent overall from the field.

“Our biggest problem was our defense,” Brissett said. “We need to contest those shots a lot better, and if we were to stop those, it would’ve been a better game.”

Syracuse was forced to utilize an atypical, smaller lineup, as centers Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe were limited with injuries. Marek Dolezaj played significant minutes at center.

“Two guys are hurt,” Boeheim said. “Can’t play if you’re hurt. They tried to go, but they just couldn’t move or jump. Couldn’t make plays.”

The Wolfpack also made a key adjustment, overloading one side of the court to open up more looks from downtown against SU’s 2-3 zone. It worked, as Sam Hunt came off the bench to shoot 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.

“It (overloading) forces the five man to leave the paint, and that’s tough for everybody,” Syracuse guard Frank Howard said. “We’ve got to do better keeping the ball out of the middle from the guard spot.”

To adjust to overloading, Howard attributed to his teammates’ length and athleticism as well as locating shooters better.

“It’s tough (to guard),” Tyus Battle said. “The big guy often posts up, so it’s hard to get around him to get out to the corner. We’ve just got to do a better job with that.”

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Jennifer Castro
About Jennifer Castro 17 Articles
Jenn is currently covering Syracuse basketball, lacrosse, and football. Jenn has interned for NBC Sports Boston, the official network of the Boston Celtics and is a senior at Syracuse studying advertising and marketing management. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Jenn is an avid sports fan and looks to continue her dream of sports reporting and sports writing. Follow her on Twitter @jennnnncastro.