There are several proven methods to beat Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone. Opponent’s can dribble drive, causing the zone to collapse and then kick it out to an open shooter. They can pass to the soft parts of the zone (the foul line). Or, they can simply shoot over the top of it.
In Syracuse’s first defeat of the season, a 74-66 loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 17, Pittsburgh shot 6 for 15 from downtown (40 percent). That set off a string of four straight losses that included Villanova, Seton Hall and Marquette.
The theme throughout the four losses was the same. Opponent’s couldn’t miss from 3-point land, and Syracuse didn’t have enough offensive firepower to keep up.
The Wildcats shot 11 for 24 from downtown in an 83-72 win on Jan. 22. The next game, Seton Hall stunned the Carrier Dome crowd by shooting 10 of 17 from distance in a 90-68 win on Jan. 25. Finally, the Golden Eagles went 6 for 13 from downtown in a 76-70 win on Jan. 29.
The combined four-game total comes out to 33 for 69 from downtown, or 47.8 percent.
That is the formula that Indiana State will try to take as it faces Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA tournament. As a team, the Sycamores shoot 36.3 percent from downtown, and five different players have attempted 50 or more 3-point attempts this season (plus another four who have attempted 30 or more).
Here is a breakdown of those five players:
1. Aaron Carter, guard.
Key stats: 8.7 points. 34.8 percent (49 of 141) from downtown.
Best case scenario: Carter was 0 of 6 from 3 in a 83-69 loss to Creighton on Jan. 21.
Worst case scenario: Against that same Creighton team, Carter hit 6-of-9 3s in a 61-59 win on Jan. 16.
Notes: By volume, Carter has attempted the most 3s on Indiana State this year, with 141. He ranks ninth in the MVC with 1.5 3-pointers a game.
2. Jordan Printy, guard.
Key stats: 6.1 points. 48.1 percent (50 of 104) from downtown.
Best case scenario: Printy went 1 for 6 in a 59-53 win over Bradley on Jan. 12.
Worst case scenario: Printy lit Northern Iowa up to the tune of 17 points on 5 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc in a 76-74 win on Feb. 22.
Notes: Printy’s got one function, and one function only when he’s out on the court. He took 131 shots this season, and 104 of them were 3s. He may be shooting 48 percent from distance, but once he steps inside the arc, he shoots just 7 for 27. The fact that he only took four free throws this season should also tell you all you need to know about his ability of getting inside.
3. Carl Richard, guard/forward.
Key stats: 9.6 points. 35.5 percent (27 of 76) from downtown.
Best case scenario: 1 for 6 in a Jan. 22 loss to Wichita State.
Worst case scenario: 3 for 5 in a Jan. 12 win at Bradley.
Note: You may remember Richard from Sportscenter’s top plays on Jan. 16, as Richard’s buzzer-beating layup notched a 61-59 win. It was the No. 2 play of the night, and one of the highlights of an All-MVC Honorable Mention season.
4. Dwayne Lathan, guard.
Key stats: 11.0 points. 30.3 percent (20 of 66) from downtown.
Best case scenario: 0 for 4 in a Jan. 26 loss to Evansville.
Worst case scenario: 3 for 5 in a Nov. 11 loss at Ball State.
Note: Lathan, a sophomore, was actually better as a freshman shooting from distance. In 20 games last year, he was 14 for 37 (37.8 percent) from downtown.
5. R.J. Mahurin, forward.
Key stats: 4.3 points. 36.4 percent (24 of 66) from downtown.
Best case scenario: 0 for 3 in a Feb. 26 win against Southern Illinois.
Worst case scenario: 3 for 5 in a Feb. 22 win against Northern Iowa.
Notes: In his redshirt freshman season, Mahurin averaged 9.9 minutes per game, yet he managed to attempt a total of 66 3s. That works out to a 3-point attempt every five minutes played.
Others to look out for include Jake Odum (11 for 54), Jake Kelly (11 for 45), Steve McWhorter (16 for 39) and Koang Doluony (11 for 31).