While Syracuse put forth a valiant effort, it just was not enough as they suffered an 80-77 loss at
#8 Florida State on Saturday afternoon, their fourth defeat in five games. Facing one of their best remaining chances to bolster any chance at an NCAA Tournament bid, the Orange (14-11, 7-7 ACC) led by a single point with under two minutes to play, but were outscored the rest of the way, 8-4. Elijah Hughes had a potential game-tying 30-footer rattle off the rim in the final seconds, clinching the 20th consecutive home victory for the Seminoles (21-4, 11-3).
In what would be a theme for the rest of the game, FSU grabbed three offensive rebounds on their opening possession. The ‘Noles pulled down 20 offensive boards and outrebounded Syracuse in the game, 47-29, including a dominating 23-10 advantage in the second half. It was not all bad inside for the Orange, as they outscored the hosts in the paint, 40-24.
SU struggled from outside, making less than one-third of their three-pointers for the eighth straight outing as they went 7-for-25 from long range. Most disappointing was Buddy Boeheim, who missed all five of his attempts beyond the arc as he finished scoreless. Syracuse did force 18 turnovers on the day, but they were not enough.
The Seminoles set the tone early. While the Orange scored the first two baskets of the day, FSU responded with ten straight points to take the lead. SU crawled back into the game, getting a long alley-oop from Joe Girard III to Quincy Guerrier to get within a deuce then three foul shots from Girard to pull within 17-16 with one second shy of eight minutes elapsed.
Florida State stretched the lead out to six in their next two possessions, but Syracuse respionded with a 13-5 run to take the lead. Girard canned a deep triple to halve the margin, then Elijah Hughes slithered inside for a lay-up. Marek Dolezaj spun inside for a lay-up after an FSU triple, then Girard connected from the left wing for three and a one-point Orange edge.
The Seminoles added a basket to go in front, but a Hughes foul shot tied the game. Dolezaj then batted in a missed shot, giving SU a 29-27 lead with just over five minutes to play in the opening half.
Florida State owned those remaining five minutes as Syracuse went cold on offense. While the Orange went 1-for-9 from the floor the rest of the half, FSU went on an 11-2 run, then tacked on a triple after a pair of Guerrier foul shots for a 41-33 halftime lead.
SU opened the second half strong, scoring 11 of the first 15 points after the teams returned to action. Hughes swished a long three to get things going. Bourama Sidibe followed a Seminole basket with a pair of free throws, then a three-point play on a putback after another FSU score. Hughes swished another three, this one from the left wing, to pull Syracuse within 45-44.
The Orange went four minutes without scoring though, and the ‘Noles rattled off ten straight points for their largest lead of the game.
SU came roaring back, capping an 18-4 burst with nine straight points. Girard hit a transition three and Hughes sliced through the defense for a lay-up. FSU got a basket, but Dolezaj drove in for a two-handed slam and Guerrier added a lay-up on the next Syracuse possession to get within 57-53.
After another Florida State score, Girard set up Guerrier on the doorstep for a basket and delievered a bounce pass to Dolezaj for another score. The freshman point guard then finished the run with a lay-up and a long three-pointer trailing in transition. The triple gave the Orange a 62-59 lead with under six minutes to play.
Hughes tacked on a three-point play to nudge the SU lead to four and Dolezaj tossed an alley-oop to Guerrier for another three-point play, restoring the lead to four again after Guerrier’s foul shot following the under-four media timeout.
The Seminoles answered with two free throws, then, after a Hughes foul shot, got a four=point play for a 70-69 lead.
Guerrier made two foul shots for the Orange, but FSU answered with a lay-up. Hughes drove in for a score and an SU lead, but the ‘Noles got it right back for a 74-73 lead.
Hughes drove again, but missed a lay-up. The hosts got a pair from the line to strengthen their lead to three. Girard drove on the next Syracuse possession, but his shot was blocked.
After the ‘Noles turned it over, Hughes drove for a lay-in cutting the margin to a single point with 41.9 seconds to go. FSU scored inside again with 22.5 ticks remaining.
Hughes again responded with a lay-up, cutting the Seminole lead to 78-77 with 10.3 seconds to play and the Orange called time out. FSU threw a long inbound pass and SU fouled with 8.5 seconds to go. Both Seminole free throws were good, giving them a three-point lead.
Hughes brought the ball up, releasing a 30-footer with just under four seconds to play. The shot missed and the ‘Noles swatted the ball out, allowing the remaining time to elapse.
Elijah Hughes poured in 18 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. Joe Girard III hit five three-pointers as he piled up 22 points while grabbing a team-leading seven rebounds. Quincy Guerrier had a very efficient day, missing once from the field and once from the foul line as he had 13 points. Bourama Sidibe added nine points while Marek Dolezaj chipped in with eight.
Ten different Seminoles got into the scoring column, led by Patrick Williams’ 17 points. Despite missing most of the first half, M.J. Walker buried five threes as he scored 16 points and Trent Forrest tallied 13 points. Wyatt Wilkes added eight points while RaiQuan Gray led all players with ten rebounds.
The Orange will make it two straight contests on the road on Wednesday when they travel to #5 Louisville. The Cardinals (21-5, 12-3) had been leading the ACC on the strength of a ten-game win streak, but slipped into second place after losing both at Georgia Tech on Wednesday and at Clemson Saturday, when they trailed by as many as 21 points in a 77-62 loss.
One of the conference’s top players, Jordan Nwora leads the Cards with 18.2 points per game and 64 three-pointers on the season. Center Steven Enoch and forward Dwayne Sutton form a tough duo inside, combining for 19.1 points and 14.2 rebounds per outing.
Wednesday night’s action will start at 7:00pm Eastern and ESPN will televise the game.