Typical weaknesses resurface

After Syracuse beat Drexel in late December, I wrote, “Recently, this team has shown no signs of the normal weak spots Syracuse teams struggle with. Bad free-throw shooting? … Poor 3-point shooting? … Careless with the ball?”

It had exhibited none of those normal weaknesses. But the Orange reverted to those typical Syracuse flaws and then some against Seton Hall on Saturday. It wound up winning, 61-56 but it never should have been that close.

Free-throw shooting was probably the worst of it. The Orange shot 70 percent from the stripe in its last seven games but hit just 17-of-36 (47 percent) against the Pirates.

The Orange led 53-40 with about six minutes remaining and then hit just 3-of-8 free throws to allow Seton Hall back in the game. If the Orange had made just a couple more free throws this game never would have gotten so close at the end.

SU had shot 41 percent from 3-point range over its last six games but made just 1-of-8 3-pointers in the first half.

Syracuse finished the game 6-of-17, but that’s only because Brandon Triche caught fire. He made all four of his 3-point attempts in just more than eight minutes early in the second half.

The Orange had been averaging fewer than nine turnovers per game in its last eight contests but had 15 yesterday. Scoop Jardine had four following a five-turnover game against Notre Dame (and yes, one of the turnovers against Seton Hall was on an ill-advised alley-oop). The ball movement and player movement was minimal, and the Orange was forced to play in the half-court set much more than it’s used to.

And the other weakness Syracuse fell back into was getting out-rebounded. Seton Hall got 43 boards compared to 30 for the Orange. This is partially responsible for SU’s offensive woes.

Seton Hall controlled the tempo of the game by getting second-chance opportunities for long possessions. It didn’t get many second-chance points, but it was able to get 24 more shots than Syracuse because of those rebounds. In addition to that, the Pirates got back on defense and didn’t allow Syracuse to get easy buckets.

Syracuse seemed to take Seton Hall for granted. Triche was the only player who exhibited any emotion. Part of the problem was that Syracuse never trailed the entire game. There were a few ties, but Seton Hall was never able to take the lead and strike fear into this team.

In a game in which just about everything went wrong, Syracuse still snuck away with a win.

Syracuse wouldn’t have won this game if it had played just about any other team in the Big East; if Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall’s best player, weren’t recovering from a broken wrist; if Seton Hall had made just a couple of those 17 3-pointers in the first half; or Triche hadn’t had that great spurt.

But no Big East team is an easy out, especially on the road, and SU will take the win and move on.

Next, SU will take on a resurgent St. John’s team that’s 3-1 in the Big East and 10-4 overall.

-The one positive I took away from the game was that the Orange was aggressive at the end of the game. Up 57-55, with less than a minute to play, Scoop Jardine saw a lane to the basket and went in for the layup instead of trying to take time off the clock. It was a nice change from how the Orange has tried to slow down games with more than five minutes remaining.
-Just call Rick Jackson an automatic almost double-double. Twice this season he has missed the mark by a single point, twice he’s missed it by a single rebound, and another time by two rebounds.

Robbie Gillies is a Senior Columnist for The Juice Online. He is also an editor at Real Clear Sports. See more at http://www.realclearsports.com/