NEW YORK — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was not happy with his team’s offense for the second straight game, despite Syracuse defeating Stanford 69-63 at Madison Square Garden to win the NIT Season Tip-Off.
It was hard to blame Boeheim as his team shot a meager 11-for-31 in the first half and went into the break trailing 25-24.
“We played 40 minutes of improved defense,” Boeheim said, “and 35 minutes of horrendous offense.”
There were few bright spots offensively for the Orange in the first half. Aside from the field goal percentage, SU was just 1-for-5 from downtown and from the free throw line.
Even though forward Kris Joseph led the Orange with six points in the opening half, he needed eight shots to do it, and missed both of his 3-point attempts.
Perhaps more concerning was Syracuse not taking care of the ball. The Orange committed 12 turnovers in the first half, with Brandon Triche leading the way with four. That led to 10 Stanford points off the turnovers.
“We weren’t patient at all,” said Scoop Jardine, who finished with six turnovers in the game. “If we would have calmed down and ran our sets […] definitely a lot of turnovers would have been cut down. We have to be patient and trust in our offense and trust in each other.”
It was the second straight game that the Orange struggled offensively in the first half. In Wednesday’s game against Virginia Tech, SU started the game shooting 5-for-16 from the field, and trailed by two going into halftime.
Syracuse’s saving grace was its defense, which forced 15 Cardinal turnovers and held it to 39 percent shooting in the first half. For the game, SU caused 24 turnovers.
Fab Melo led the Orange’s defense with another solid game around the basket, collecting three blocks, three steals and nine rebounds to go with six points.
“Really, they have long arms, they’re big inside,” Cardinal guard Chasson Randle said. “They really pressured us to make bad decisions sometimes.”
The Orange offense picked up in the second half, as it shot 17-for-30 from the field. Joseph also got going, scoring nine-straight points to finish with 18 points and nine rebounds.
That was in part due to Syracuse’s suffocating full court press, which led to several easy baskets.
“Down the stretch our press definitely helped us get a few steals,” Joseph said. “Making the right rotations while we were in our zone, it helps us tremendously. Just because we know where the next pass is going to be going. If we can just get in that lane and anticipate that pass, then we’ll get steals.”
That helped Syracuse go on a 10-0 run down the stretch, and it was able to survive its toughest test of the early season.
“The only way we’re going to get better is to get our offense better,” Boeheim said. “It looks to me like there’s a lot of work to be done there.”