The bad news is Syracuse played the game the way Georgetown wanted it to be played. The good news is they won. The bad news is they still have a serious rebounding problem. The good news is… still the same… they won. It wasn’t pretty but that ugliness gets swept under the rug with a win against their arch rival.
Georgetown slowed the pace down and made Syracuse work in the half court set. They limited the Orange on the glass and held them to under 35-percent shooting. That’s a recipe for a Georgetown win. But Syracuse was no slouch on defense either. Combine that with their offenses looking as ugly as those neon yellow laces the Hoyas were wearing and if you were colorblind you would’ve thought this was a game between Wisconsin and Illinois (you could really pick any two Big Ten teams).
The Hoyas played a lot of zone, and, while you would think a team known for playing almost exclusively zone would know how to beat it, the Orange always struggle against it (this irony isn’t lost on Syracuse fans). The Hoyas did a tremendous job challenging shots both in the paint and on the perimeter. The Orange were forced into some poor shots late in the shot clock and were cold all night long.
While the offense was sub-par, Syracuse’s defense held its own. The Hoyas shot just 33 percent for the game, including 5-of-21 from long distance. Much of the credit goes to the big man in the middle. Fab Melo recorded 6 of the Orange’s 11 blocks and held Henry Sims to 1-of-12 shooting. As for that lone basket? It was when Melo was sitting on the bench and Sims got a layup on Baye Keita.
But it wasn’t all orange-colored roses on the defensive end. Syracuse had been struggling rebounding the ball prior to Fab’s return but it seemed like that problem went away with Melo back. Against St. John’s, Syracuse held a plus-13 edge. But it turns out that was just because St. John’s is even worse at rebounding than Syracuse. Last night the Hoyas out-rebounded the Orange 48-30, including 20 offensive rebounds.
How can the defense be so aggressive on the ball and so passive on the glass? I understand that the zone is not conducive to rebounding but it certainly doesn’t account for that type of disparity. Announcers always talk about the length of Syracuse. Don’t even attempt to play a drinking game during an SU game where “length” requires you to drink. So where is that length when it comes to rebounds? This isn’t a small team. There is no excuse for not finding a man and boxing out.
Aside from Melo’s play, the only saving grace from last night was Kris Joseph having a career night. He had a career-high 29 points. He nailed 6-of-11 3-pointers including the game-winner with 26 seconds remaining in OT. But don’t confuse this with Joseph becoming the Orange’s “go-to-guy.” I’ve seen too many games to expect some sort of consistency out of him. A wise man once said, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for two and a half years and I’m not gonna be fooled again.’
But maybe Joseph has turned the corner. Maybe his most recent 3-point shooting woes were all just practice. 0-2 against St. John’s? Practice. 0-for-3 against West Virginia? Practice. 3-for-27 in his last 7 games? All practice leading up to this one. What it does illustrate yet again though, is why Syracuse does not need a ‘go-to-guy.’ This unprecedented depth means it could be one of many on any given night. Is it more dangerous having one player you know you have to shut down or knowing that anyone on the court could make the key play?
It wasn’t a pretty game and Boeheim let everyone know that in his post-game press conference. He laid into his team for its horrendous rebounding. It looks like someone is cranky ahead of the UConn game on Saturday. But Boeheim is right that this team can’t continue to win with effort like this. Expect some brutally physical practices before Saturday’s showdown.