Syracuse, with no other options, commits itself to inconsistent 3-ball in loss to No. 11 Virginia

first_img Published on November 7, 2019 at 1:36 am Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcCleary After Elijah Hughes drained a 3-pointer over Virginia’s Kihei Clark, Hughes peered down Clark’s drifting eyes and allowed the point guard to collide with his chest. It was early in the second half and, amid SU’s worst offensive performance since 1945 — an eventual 48-34 loss — the severity of Syracuse’s then-eight point deficit felt minimal. The Carrier Dome crowd erupted as Hughes continued to stare down at Clark, nine inches shorter.“We had some open ones that we make in practice,” Hughes said.No matter how close the score, what extent the deficit, a token 3-pointer from an SU team that said it would take a lot of them seemed like it always inched the Orange (0-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) closer. The Orange held true to their preseason promise to utilize its weapons behind the arc and fired 29 shots behind the arc. But the Orange’s inability to create any alternate offense to the 3-point shot created a one-dimensional look and sunk their 3-point percentage below 20% as No. 11 Virginia (1-0, 1-0) tightened its defense. “The thing we kind of relied on in preseason and practice was shooting,” Joe Girard III said, “and that’s kind of what hurt us today.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textComing into Wednesday, Girard III said SU coaches told the Orange players that finding gaps, setting off-ball screens and moving to create open shots were keys to operating efficiently against the Cavaliers’ defense. But when the game began, and those holes weren’t there, SU resorted to the only shots it could get consistently. It started the game with a peculiar commitment to interior offense. Bourama Sidibe scored the first basket of the Orange’s season, and SU spent much of the next nine minutes of scoreless basketball working the ball inside before it went out. The team that dominated when it shot 3-pointers in the preseason operated mostly inside for the early part of the game.They drew fouls, but Jalen Carey got to the line early and missed two free throws. They got the ball down low, but Sidibe turned the ball over and missed a layup his next two looks inside. Open shots rimmed out. Hughes forced a shot at the shot clock buzzer that fell multiple feet short of the rim. Momentum plays turned to throwaways. “We tried to drive a little bit, but we couldn’t get anything going there,” Boeheim said.Syracuse fell, and fast. SU scored two points in the first eleven minutes of the game. Had it not been for Virginia’s inefficiency, the game could have unraveled. Down 13-2, Hughes caught the ball on the elbow, faced up and drained 3-pointer. A Marek Dolezaj floater cut the lead again. The Orange, bound to the 3-pointer to generate offense, started to see their shots fall.Late in the first half, Girard III hung around the top of the key and quickly fired off a dump pass from the inside. The ball ricocheted high of the backboard and fell through the net. Girard III rose up three fingers and tucked them back to his side. SU pulled within four points as the half wound to an end.But then Syracuse started to miss. Dolezaj missed two from the corner. Girard III tried to match his contested 3-pointer from the first half but couldn’t. SU made two of its next 16 attempts to end the game, each make bringing Syracuse within striking distance and each miss sinking it further into a hole. Wednesday, Syracuse’s biggest strength was its biggest weakness, but with a tempting payoff. “They had two seven-footers waiting for us,” Buddy Boeheim said. “So, at that point, you gotta stick to your strength.”The Orange committed themselves to shooting from the outside miss after miss because, even if just against Virginia, their other options were worse. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more