I had almost forgot what a close game felt like. Syracuse hadn’t had a game this tight in about a month and even that Marshall game was well in hand before the Thundering Herd went on a late but irrelevant run. Syracuse led by just 2 points at the half but was just too good for the Friars after the break and cruised to a 87-73 victory to improve to 15-0.
Providence executed a good game plan last night. They pushed the ball in transition when they had the opportunity but slowed it down in the halfcourt and methodically attacked the 2-3 zone. They attacked from the middle with many buckets starting from the free throw line. Kadeem Batts was particularly effective at that spot, knocking down a couple jumpers and driving to the bucket another time. Their guards would slash through the middle and either work their way in for a close range shot/layup or kick it out for a few good 3-point looks.
They exposed the weaknesses of the zone but the Orange also helped them in the process. The Friars shot 49-percent from the field and 46-percent from deep because of Syracuse’s lackluster efforts. It’s not that they played particularly bad but they certainly did not play well. With Baye Keita out, it was up to Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas to man the center spot. Rak fouled out with 9:04 to go and Melo was limited due to foul trouble as well. The two got into foul trouble because of bad defensive positioning. Multiple times they were caught leaning instead of keeping their hands straight up and that’s what allowed Providence to shoot 28 free throws. The Orange actually had to put C.J. Fair in at the 5 spot because Christmas was out and Melo had 4 fouls.
One of the biggest reasons for Syracuse’s success so far this season has been the defense creating turnovers. Last night the Orange had just 5 steals and 5 blocks. That’s the least combined they have had all season and just two other times have they been held below 15 combined (Albany and Florida).
Without turnovers leading to easy buckets their offense would have to be very efficient. I’d call 61-percent shooting and 39-percent from distance efficient. The offense was just fantastic. In the 2nd half they pounded it inside scoring 27 of their 51 points in the paint and they got good looks from 3-point range by good ball movement and some off the ball screens.
Providence never let this game get out of hand and seemed to claw back in it time and time again but here’s where the deep bench comes into play. Take note, Ron Morris. Syracuse will eventually make a run. The Friars cut the lead to 40-38 early in the 2nd half before the Cuse ripped off an 11-1 run to create some much-needed separation. This time it was Brandon Triche that led the way with 3 consecutive 3-pointers. At that point the Orange salted away the clock with a 3-man weave at the 3-point line before going to work with about 15 seconds on the shot clock. Normally this type of prevent offense can cause a team to get out of rhythm but that didn’t happen last night. They ran effective sets as their offense continued to roll.
Now Syracuse will turn its attention to the Marquette Golden Eagles who have to be itching to get back on the court after blowing a big lead to Georgetown last night. Can Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder graduate already?