That was probably the most boring 6-point game I’ve ever watched Syracuse play. The Orange led wire-to-wire, it was never closer than 10 points from 14:23 in the first half until 4 minutes left in the second, and yet there was only a brief period where Syracuse actually executed well on offense. It has been the story of the season for Syracuse. The defense was tremendous but the offense had serious issues and the only thing that saved them was the points in transition, which of course, is a product of the defense.
Marshall took a similar game plan to that of Eastern Michigan and Colgate and tried to slow down the tempo. They took their time on offense and didn’t fall in love with the 3-point shot. The 3-point shot didn’t fall in love with them either as the Thundering Herd missed their first 16 attempts. They tried to work the ball inside but found it difficult getting through the zone.
The Orange’s defense was simply stifling. They finished with 12 steals and 10 blocks and had many other deflections. Everyone got in on the part with 7 different players recording a steal including Scoop Jardine with 3 and Dion Waiters, James Southerland and Brandon Triche with 2 a piece.
I mentioned Marshall missed their first 16 shots from deep. They did improve down the stretch to finish 5 of 24. One might look at the score and surmise that if Marshall could’ve just been average from distance they could’ve won this game but that wouldn’t be giving enough credit to the Orange’s defense. I counted that 6 of those 24 were decent looks and many of those game towards the end with the game in hand. Of course, there have been teams in the past (Louisville) that have knocked down some of those extremely difficult looks but Marshall doesn’t have any player that is that deadly from 3-point range.
If it weren’t for that defense, the Orange would’ve had little to no offense. Syracuse scored 27 of its 62 points in transition hitting on 10 of 14 shots. Even those numbers should have been higher though. They had multiple unforced turnovers on fast breaks that had Boeheim’s eyes bulging. But what must’ve riled Boeheim even more was Syracuse’s half court offense. The Orange shot 32-percent in the half court set. Some were just missed open shots but many were players going one-on-one and forcing bad shots.
The other major issue was rebounding. At halftime the teams were equal with 18 boards a piece. In the 2nd half though, Marshall held a 22-14 edge. Of course, a zone is susceptible to offensive rebounding but that doesn’t account for that large of a disparity. That type of disparity has to do with lack of hustle. The Orange weren’t concentrating on boxing out and the Thundering Herd outhustled them.
The Orange improve to 9-0 but their offense is a big concern. What will happen when they play against a team that protects the ball and forces them to play half court offense? It’s easier said than done with the way Syracuse is playing defense but they won’t always be able to force teams into 20 turnovers. But with a soft schedule until early January, they might not need to worry about that quite yet.