SAN DIEGO — Syracuse took just four 3-pointers during Sunday afternoon’s 62-49 win over San Diego State.
Even that number was too many for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.
The game, played outside on the flight deck of the USS Midway, forced both teams to adjust their game plans. Though the Orange aren’t necessarily known as a team that gets shot happy from the perimeter, SU emphasized getting the ball inside with gusts of wind affecting shots.
“Obviously, you’re not going to shoot it well,” Boeheim said. “We took four three point shots and that was probably a couple too many.”
CJ Fair hit SU’s first 3-pointer of the game from the left baseline as the Orange jumped out to an early 17-4 lead. Turns out, it was SU’s final made shot from downtown. Instead, Brandon Triche (15 points), Michael Carter-Williams (17) and Fair (17) slashed their ways into the paint.
The Orange finished with 44 points in the interior, often facing multiple Aztec defenders.
“If you make the dribble penetration, they have five guys back in the lane,” Boeheim said. “We don’t ever have five guys back in the lane playing zone. They’re playing a man to man with huge zone principles.”
Still, the Orange found ways to score.
“They were kind of forcing us to go to the basket and to take open shots,” Fair said. “But it was tough, but I think as we penetrated and kicked, we got good angles and we were able to get to the basket.”
SU employed the same strategy on defense, often leaving SDSU uncontested 3s. It worked, as the Aztecs were a dismal 1 for 18 from there.
When the Aztecs tried to get inside, the SU zone packed in. The Orange blocked 10 shots and held them to 30 points in the paint. Rakeem Christmas led the way with five.
It didn’t hurt that the tallest player on San Diego State is 6 foot 8.
“They’re not going to get any shorter, and they gave us fits with ten blocked shots,” SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. “At least that many that they altered and came flying on any number of what looked like were going to be easy ones.”
Though playing outside was a unique experience, the idea of getting the ball inside will be important when the Orange go back to playing indoors. There will be nights when SU’s shots aren’t falling, when the 3-pointer simply isn’t a viable option.
When that happens, the Orange will have Sunday’s lessons to guide them.
“We have some of these games in our league like this,” Boeheim said. “We’ll have those games where you can’t get good shots. You have to get to the basket, and this game will be something we can fall back on.”