A quick take on Syracuse’s 89-68 one-sided loss against 19th ranked Auburn, falling in the fifth/sixth place game Friday night at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in Paradise Island, Bahamas:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse dropped to matching its worst record after the first six games of a season (3-3) in Jim Boeheim’s 46 year career, the worst opening portion of any season since also going 3-3 in 1996-97. SU led briefly 10-6, then as the was case in Wednesday’s loss to VCU, the Tigers turned up the defense and took advantage of their size and athleticism in the paint to race to a 10 point halftime lead, which they extended to 15 just four minutes into the second half. SU did cut the lead to 10 with under 8:00 to play, but simply did not have enough offensive gas in the tank. After scoring 92 points in the win over Arizona State, 24 hours later the ‘Cuse could only manage 68 points versus Auburn when the game was on the line, shooting 20-for-48 overall and 7-for-19 from beyond the arc.
ANALYSIS: Opposing teams with height and length, and a deep bench (10 Tigers saw action and scored points), are going to stymie Syracuse all season. Auburn was patient in both its half court offense, shooting 50%, nabbing 42 points in the paint, and outrebounded the ‘Cuse 38-28. The Boeheim brothers, accounting for 71 point in the first two games in the Bahamas, struggled finishing with a combined 20 points. Jimmy Boeheim, after scoring the first basket in SU’s first five games, did not score until 13:43 in the second half finishing with just three points. Buddy Boeheim, Cole Swider, and Jesse Edwards led SU in defeat with 17 points each.
HERO: Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said after the Tigers beat Loyola on Thursday that freshman big man Jabari Smith was the best player in the tournament, and while that may be a tad debatable, there’s no doubt Smith is an offensive force at 6-10, able to score inside and out with a smooth jump shot. Smith finished with a game-high 22 points and made 4-of-8 three-pointers finishing with six rebounds and two assists. About the only thing Smith did wrong was showing his youth getting a technical foul for taunting after his fourth trey with just over 4:00 to play.
ZERO: As with the case of the football team this season averaging nearly 10 penalties a game, this year’s basketball team has a slim margin of error, and certainly can’t commit self-inflicted wounds. Syracuse had averaged 11 turnovers coming into this game and finished with 15. Auburn (5-1) converted those miscues directly to 18 points, close to the 21 point game margin, while AU raced down the court passed the SU defense on numerous occasions scoring 11 points in transition.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse makes the flight back from the Caribbean to return to the (hopeful) friendly confines of the Dome hosting Indiana (5-0) in ACC-Big Ten challenge on Tuesday night, November 30. The teams last met in the 2013 ‘Challenge’ in the Dome with SU winning 69-52. The Hoosiers, under first year head coach Mike Woodson, host Marshall Saturday night. Game Time: 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2.