Without Elijah Hughes, Syracuse basketball puts up a valiant fight, then fades

Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim
Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim shoots. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Syracuse closed their schedule with a thud, dropping a 69-65 overtime game at Miami. The Orange (17-14, 10-10 ACC) led by a half dozen shortly after the midpoint of the second half, but lost the lead over the next six minutes, then gave up a 7-2 run to start overtime after coming back from a four-point deficit in the final 16.7 seconds of regulation. The loss drops SU to a sixth-place tie in the conference while the Hurricanes (15-15, 7-13) finish in the tenth-place tie.

Elijah Hughes did not play in the second half after suffering a head injury shortly before halftime. It is debatable how much his absence affected the Syracuse offense, as the team shot 35.7 percent from the field in the first half and 36.9 percent overall. The Orange perimeter attack was poor once again, hitting just 5-of-25 attempts from three-point range, including missing all four attempts in overtime.

Miami was not much better on offense, but did manage to make 10 threes at a 32.3 percent overall clip. Most notably, the ‘Canes hit seven triples in the second half while attempting just ten shots inside the arc during that time.

SU had the first four points of the contest, but Miami stayed close and eventually posted the biggest run of the opening half. The Syracuse offense went into a deep freeze for the better part of eight minutes, allowing the Hurricanes to score 13 of 16 points and take a 22-16 lead with under four minutes to go in the half.

When the Orange broke their 1-for-10 skid, they scored eight of the final dozen points before halftime, drawing within 26-24 at intermission on a three-pointer by Buddy Boeheim just before the horn.

The hosts got a three to push their lead to five, but SU got a pretty pick-and-roll finished by a Marek Dolezaj lay-up and a right wing three from Joe Girard III to knot the score at 29 nearly four minutes out of the locker room.

The Orange made it nine of ten points after that Hurricane triple opened the half, holding Miami without a field goal for nearly eight minutes. Unfortunately, SU was not as proficient on the offensive end, but did grab a 33-30 lead on a Quincy Guerrier putback eight minutes into the second half.

The ‘Canes knotted the score by breaking through for a trey, but Syracuse answered with a half dozen points for their biggest lead of the game. Jesse Edwards knocked down a pair of foul shots, then Guerrier added a lay-up. Boeheim tacked on a jump shot and the Orange held a 39-33 lead with a little over nine minutes left in the second half.

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The Hurricanes erased the margin on a pair of threes, but SU responded with another Guerrier putback and a three-pointer from Boeheim for a 44-39 edge. Miami matched that, tying the game with under five minutes on the clock.

Neither team led by more than one possession until the ‘Canes got a pair of foul shots for a 56-52 lead with 16.7 seconds to go in regulation. Girard went coast-to-coast for a lay-up to halve the margin with 10.1 seconds to go, then Miami missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Girard struck again, draining a pull-up from the charity stripe to tie the game at 56. Miami turned the ball over and the referees awarded the ball to Syracuse with 0.2 seconds to go, but the inbound pass was deflected and the clock ran out, sending the game to overtime.

Miami scored seven of the first nine points of the extra session, jumping to a 63-58 lead in 90 seconds as the Orange could only muster a pair of Boeheim foul shots. Guerrier and Edwards each added a free throw to chip the Hurricane lead down to three.

After Girard missed a three with 37 seconds to go, Miami got the rebound and eventually a long pass for a dunk, pushing their lead to 65-60 with 28.3 seconds on the clock. Dolezaj went the length of the floor for a lay-up, their first field goal of overtime, and SU called time with 22.5 seconds to play.

Miami turned the ball over a second later, and Guerrier made one free throw with 10.4 seconds left, then missed the second. The ‘Canes made both of their free throws to stretch their lead to 67-63.

Edwards had a follow dunk to pull Syracuse within two, but Miami added two more free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining, icing the game.

Marek Dolezaj paced the Orange with 17 points in the game. Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim both struggled shooting the ball, but combined for 25 points. Girard was 5-for-17 from the field with 13 points and Boeheim 4-of-15 with a dozen points. Each shot 2-for-10 from three-point range. Elijah Hughes and Quincy Guerrier each had eight points while Bourama Sidibe snared ten rebounds.

Isaiah Wong took game-high honors, finishing with 18 points and grabbed nine boards. Dejan Vasiljevic made five triples as he finished with 17 points while Kemron McGusty connected from long range three times for the bulk of his 13 points.

Syracuse will now head to the ACC Tournament and start play on Wednesday. By virtue of tiebreakers and Georgia Tech sitting out the postseason, the Orange will be the sixth-seed. SU will face the winner of Tuesday’s Virginia Tech-North Carolina game in the second round.

During the regular season, Syracuse split their games with the 11th-seeded Hokies, dropping a 67-63 home decision on January 7, then pulling out a 71-69 road win 11 days later. The 14th-seeded Tar Heels drilled the Orange a week ago at the Carrier Dome, 92-79.

SU’s second round game is slated for an approximate 9:00pm Eastern start (20 minutes after the conclusion of the 7:00pm Eastern game) on Wednesday and will be televised by ESPN2.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 631 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.