Brandon Triche quietly sat at his locker after Saturday’s 58-53 loss to Louisville as reporters stormed in to pester him with questions. He was clearly upset after shooting just 2-for-11 from the field and turning the ball over seven times.
It was his 135th start in an Orange uniform, tied for third-most in SU history with Gerry McNamara. But Triche wasn’t playing like a senior leader with so much experience under his belt, especially in the final minutes with the game on the line.
“A one-point lead, we got the ball and Brandon dribbles into the guy,” coach Boeheim said. “You just can’t make those mistakes in these kind of games, a tournament-type game.”
It was in Triche’s hands when it mattered most and Triche faltered.
But it hasn’t been like that all season. When Boeheim asked Triche to step up after the loss to Connecticut, he responded with 29 points, six rebounds and five assists against Seton Hall. But since then, his numbers are back on the decline and the only stat that’s going up is turnovers.
Triche has turned the ball over 12 times in the past three games and hasn’t scored more than ten points. His recent performance is something that not even coach Boeheim expected.
“I don’t know. I have no explanation for it,” he said. “If anything, he tries too hard to get something done. He doesn’t play well when he tries too hard… We need him to be better than that.”
Seven turnovers isn’t something Triche is familiar with. In fact, he’s never turned over the ball seven times during his entire SU career. Last season, he never gave the ball away more than four times in a game. This year, he’s turned it over four or more times in seven games.
“It’s very disappointing just because it’s out of my character,” Triche said. “If I was use to making turnovers then I wouldn’t think too much of it, but when it’s out of your character, it hurts.”
Triche’s senior counterpart has a simple solution for Triche’s problems. Forget about them. That’s what James Southerland does when he goes through a slump.
Against Louisville, Southerland shot 1-for-8 in the first half but he remained confident. He came out of the locker room and shot 4-for-4 in the second half, 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. He made some crucial shots that helped the Orange climb back when the Cardinals grabbed a late lead.
“You can’t really focus on how many shots you miss in the first half,” Southerland said. “You just have to make sure you hit the next one. I was definitely more mentally focused in the second half…”
Southerland has already forgotten about today’s game and is looking ahead to his final game at the Carrier Dome against DePaul on Wednesday. But Senior Night is the least of Triche’s concern.
“I can’t really think about senior night, I just have to think about winning,” he said. “I can’t think about it being my last game. I don’t want to think about it in general. We’ve got more important things to think about.”
As a teammate and a roommate, Southerland has gotten the chance to know Triche very well over the past four years. Through all the ups and downs, Southerland said he’s had some amazing memories during his time at Syracuse, but he’s not done.
Southerland is confident that Triche and the team will snap out of the slump and make a run in March.
“Yes, he’s been struggling, but I feel like everyone on this team has gone through struggles and we just have focus as a team,” Southerland said. “We have to do everything as a team.”
Boeheim said Triche has the talent to snap out of this slump. He called him extremely hard working. But Triche has his own motivation to be successful—the guys he’s spent all season playing with.
“You don’t want feel like you’re the reason why your teammates are losing.”