Growing pains and struggling offense sink Syracuse against Iowa

Syracuse forward Elijah Hughes
Syracuse forward Elijah Hughes attempts a free throw. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Syracuse’s struggles in the early season continued on Tuesday night, as they were shut down in the second half by Iowa in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and suffered a 68-54 loss at the Carrier Dome. The Hawkeyes (6-2) held a one-point lead at the half, but crushed the Orange (4-4) in the second half by a 38-25 margin.

While their second half total suggests SU had offensive struggles after the break, the truth is they shot 37 percent from the field in the first half and 36 percent in the second. Iowa simply owned the second half, making over half their shots and not turning the ball over until the final three minutes of the game.

Syracuse scored the first four points of the game with the second basket coming in an unexpected fashion. Bourama Sidibe corralled a loose ball near midcourt and tossed a pass backwards over his head into the frontcourt. Marek Dolezaj chased down the ball and slammed it home.

Iowa surged to a three-point lead a few minutes later, but the Orange wiped it out with a 9-2 run. Quincy Guerrier started the streak by rattling home a pull-up jumper, then Elijah Hughes swished a deep three to put SU in front. The Hawkeyes scored to knot the game, but Dolezaj stuck a jump shot and Hughes found a streaking Guerrier with a long pass for a fast break slam and a 16-12 lead with a little over seven minutes off the clock.

Syracuse, however, would only post a single field goal over the next ten minutes. Fortunately, their defense was solid and they patched together enough free throws to hang around. When Buddy Boeheim curled into a straightaway three-pointer with less than three minutes left into the half, the shot put the Orange in front, 26-25.

» Related: Syracuse meeting Iowa has only occurred a few times in SU history

The Hawkeyes jumped back in front, but Dolezaj closed the scorebook for the first half with a wide-open triple from the left wing, sending the game to intermission with Iowa holding a 30-29 lead.

SU tied the game at 33 early in the second session, but their offense then went into a deep freeze. Over the next ten minutes, the Orange went 1-for-10 from the field with four turnovers, a stretch of offensive ineptitude that allowed Iowa to go on a 23-5 run capped with a dozen straight points.

Finding themselves in a 56-38 hole, Syracuse tried to climb out, getting a trey from Hughes and a three-point-play for Joe Girard III around a Hawkeye score, but that was the last gasp they had to offer. A second three-point play from Girard was all the Orange could muster in the next six minutes and they trailed by 19 points when Jim Boeheim opted for multiple substitutions to close the game.

Marek Dolezaj led SU with a dozen points, ten of them coming in the opening half. Elijah Hughes had his second straight rough night shooting the ball, going 3-of-13 for ten points, including missing all eight of his two-point shots. Bourama Sidibe had eight points and eight rebounds while Buddy Boeheim added seven points.

Luka Garza had a field day for Iowa, finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds. Jordan Bohannon hit five three-pointers for the majority of his 17 points and Joe Weiskamp did a little bit of everything for the Hawkeyes, posting 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Syracuse looks to even their ACC record at 1-1 and get back above .500 overall on Saturday when they play at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (3-2, 0-1 ACC) will host Nebraska on Wednesday night in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge before the matchup with the Orange.

Guard Michael DeVoe has been electric for the Jackets, averaging 23.4 points per game on the season, highlighted by a 34-point, nine-rebound effort against Georgia. James Banks III averages just under a double-double in points and rebounds along with 5.2 blocks per game.

The ACC Network will televise the game, which will get underway at 12:00pm Eastern on Saturday.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 586 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.