Orange Watch: Offensive production key to how Syracuse basketball will fare in the ACC

Notre Dame
Syracuse will be challenged to increase its offensive production throughout the rest of the ACC schedule. MANDATORY CREDIT: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: With road games next at the nation’s top scoring defensive team Virginia, first up this evening (8:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network), followed by Florida State, 12th nationally in scoring margin differential (before Sunday night’s FSU loss at Miami), Saturday afternoon, and coming off a 49 point performance in its loss to Notre Dame last weekend, the not-so-simple challenge for Syracuse will be scoring enough points to garner a win away from the Dome for the first time this season in conference play.

Sure, the shooting percentages both from three point range (44%) and overall from the field (39%) have been worse, but the rebounding margin differential (15) and overall lack of any sort of flow on the offensive end leading to the inability to even reach the 50 point mark in the defeat to an undermanned Notre Dame team, does not portend well for this year’s Orange.

Already with two losses in three conference games, and an overall difficulty of winning on the road in now the fifth season as a conference member, if you got a look at Virginia holding North Carolina to the same 49 points on the same afternoon as SU’s final tally versus Notre Dame, then you know the ‘Cuse has its work cut out for itself against a UVA team that’s playing in early January like a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

» Related: Syracuse basketball’s big men are at heart of offensive woes

“We cannot score,” a frustrated Jim Boeheim summed up succinctly after the fourth loss of the season, and second at home. “And it’s been a struggle and it’s probably going to continue to be a struggle for us to score points. They’re battling as hard as they can, but this is really the first game that someone (Notre Dame) got physical against us.”

With opponents’ defensive scouting reports keying on the trio of Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett, who have averaged 50 of the 70 points that SU has scored per game so far, and with the team averaging 12 assists through the first 16 games, physical play on “D” is only going to continue.

“We work everyday on our offense,” Boeheim emphasized, “we’re going to have to get better.”

Most importantly would be game planning to somehow get more contributions (good shot opportunities) in the offensive flow from both Matthew Moyer and Marek Dolezaj at the “4,” and big men Paschal Chukwu and secondarily Bourama Sidibe down low, a combination of which has only occurred in about a quarter of the games so far.

“This week is going to be a challenge with (Virginia) and Florida State,” Boeheim forecasted. “But, this league is a tremendous challenge and we just have to work, get better and keep working.”

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.