Syracuse has been in an offensive funk in the last three games, and two of Syracuse’s front court players, Paschal Chukwu and Oshae Brissett have been a microcosm for its struggles.
Both players were non-factors on offense in Syracuse’s 59-44 loss to No. 2 Virginia on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome. The 44 points set a record for fewest points by an Orange team at the Carrier Dome.
“We have to play better on offense,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said.
While Syracuse shot 33 percent from the field and 4-21 from downtown as a team, Boeheim specifically mentioned Chukwu’s disappearance as a reason for SU’s struggles.
After playing all 40 minutes against Boston College and scoring 14 points to go with seven rebounds, Chukwu has been non-existent on offense in SU’s subsequent games against Pitt, Georgia Tech and UVa.
The 7-2 big man has averaged just 1.3 points during that stretch, and went scoreless in 26 minutes against the Cavaliers. It is perhaps his bagel against Virginia that has baffled the Syracuse coaching staff the most.
“I can’t explain what is happening to him,” Boeheim said. “We played this team at their court and he had 16 (rebounds) and (nine points). Tonight, he could have played 15 minutes and would not have scored. I don’t know what it is.”
Attempting a shot would be a start. In the last three games, Chukwu has taken a total of six shots, and against Virginia, didn’t attempt a single field goal.
The lack of aggression wasn’t just limited to shots. In 26 minutes, Chukwu only had three rebounds and a block.
“When you are not scoring and not rebounding and you are not defending, then we have to try something else,” Boeheim said. “We have too many guys playing minutes that are not productive.”
Boeheim also expressed frustration with Chukwu’s frontcourt mate Oshae Brissett. The freshman shot just 3-11 from the field and 1-4 from beyond the arc.
Though Brissett put up gaudy numbers in the non-conference slate, he has found it significantly harder to score in ACC play against stronger, more agile defenders.
“He just can’t finish down there,” Boeheim said. “That is what he does and he has got to get better.”
Syracuse won’t have much time to find the answers, with its next game coming 48 hours later against an improved Louisville team.
“No one wants to lose but we trust our system and we trust the players that we have so we just have to forget about this game,” Brissett said. “We have a quick turnaround as we play Monday, so we just have to focus on that.”
Said Boeheim: “That is really the bottom line the last three games – we have had trouble scoring.”