The Miami Hurricanes gave the Syracuse Orange a taste of their own medicine on Saturday, playing zone defense for the whole game. Syracuse prevailed, though, relying on late defensive stops and being patient when it came to shot selection. This proved to be a big part of the reason Syracuse was able to remain undefeated.
How do I know? I'll show you. Let's take a look at how the Orange walked away with a win, by the numbers.
Look. At. That. All season, when anyone is asked how to beat Syracuse, one theme is constant -- keep them out of transition. Avoiding turnovers is one way to do that, and Miami really took care of the ball. Full disclosure, there were fewer possessions in this game than usual. You stats people might argue that forcing fewer turnovers on fewer possessions isn't all that impressive.
I thought you might say that, though, so how 'bout this: Syracuse usually forces its opponents to turn the ball over on more than 15% of their possessions. This time, the 'Canes lost the ball on only 9.8%. People are learning.
Despite playing a zone defense, Miami was called for 20 fouls in this game. So, yes, some of Syracuse's extra free throw attempts were because they got into the bonus, but I argue that shot selection has something to do with it (see also: below). There were more opportunities to draw shooting fouls because the Orange drove the lane a little bit more than it usually does.
Whether this was because players realized how officials were calling the game or because of a Boeheim instruction, I couldn't tell you. All I can tell you is that it worked. The late-game makes were crucial to the win.
The first half was better (75% on 3-of-4 shooting), but that's still a great percentage. Syracuse normally takes close to 16 threes per game, and only took 11 on Saturday. In a game where there were so few turnovers to create easy buckets, the Orange couldn't afford to waste offensive opportunities by jacking the ball up from deep. While the offense as a whole wasn't pretty sometimes, applaud these guys for their patience here.
Senior leadership and composure all over the place. Not only can we see this in his zero turnovers in a tight game, but look elsewhere, too. He doubled his season average for per-game assists with three, and he rebounded the ball better. When the shots weren't falling as easily for him, he found other ways to contribute.
Eight of Grant's free throw attempts came in the first half. He was incredibly aggressive against Miami's zone, and this was the result. His shooting numbers weren't on par with season averages, but getting to the line puts points on the board, too. Grant hasn't been doing this as much recently (his next highest number of attempts in conference play was 7 against Virginia Tech), so let's hope this is a new trend.
Keita only played an extra 2.5 minutes than he's been averaging, so it's not like this was the result of being in the game a lot longer. We give him a hard time on occasion for having a tough time catching passes or maintaining control of the ball. Let's give him credit here. The center position isn't as deep anymore, but The Matrix still shows up.
Rebounds were also the story for the Syracuse team as a whole, which killed the 'Canes on the boards. In a game where Syracuse's opponent shot 52.9% (!!) from behind the arc and didn't turn the ball over, it was the Orange's ability to crash the glass, take better shots, and get to the line that made the difference.
- Ranking the "Syracuse-Duke" T-Shirts You'll Find for the Game
- Syracuse Basketball: All, Can You Just Leave Jeff Goodman Alone?
- Syracuse 64, Miami 52: Orange Close Strong to Put Away 'Canes Again
- Carmelo Anthony Sets Knicks Scoring Record: Former SU Star Scores 62 Points Vs. Bobcats
- Syracuse University Wants A $495M, 44K Arena With Retractable Roof, Please