Inside The Box Score: To Foul Or Not To Foul?

USA TODAY Sports

TNIAAM's Inside The Box Score feature resumes its regularly scheduled programming, as it dives into Syracuse's loss to Villanova, 75-71, on Saturday.

Showing nearly every one of their flaws Saturday, the No. 3-ranked Syracuse Orange suffered a disappointing loss at the Villanova Wildcats, 75-71.

After digging through the box score, here's what was learned.

-- In the final 1 minute, 30 seconds of regulation, Syracuse went 0-for-1 from the free throw line--yes, it was that awful miss by Michael Carter-Williams. In overtime, the Orange went 6-for-9 from the charity stripe.

Of course, this prompted a lot of reaction about Syracuse's failures at the free throw line, especially in the closing moments of tight games.

I wanted to find out what the Orange's actual free-throw shooting percentage was in games that featured a five-point lead with 1:30 remaining.

The results: 19-for-27 (70-percent). Of course, that includes a perfect 10-for-10 performance in the Providence game. If you throw that out SU is just 9-for-17 (52-percent).

That will need to improve if the Orange want to make a run deep into March.

-- When Jerami Grant was on the floor Syracuse outscored Villanova, 50-36. When Grant was not on the floor, Villanova outscored Syracuse, 39-21.

Grant finished the contest with 12 points and five rebounds. The freshman was also 5-for-5 from the free-throw line, but fouled out with 5:22 remaining in the game.

-- For just the second time this season, Rakeem Christmas collected 10 rebounds, a season high.

Christmas also tallied nine points, including shooting 3-for-4 from the free-throw line.

-- Via CBSSports.com writer Jeff Borzello: "Heading into 2013, Brandon Triche had eight 20-point games in his career. Today would be his fourth in his last seven games."

Triche finished with a team-best 23 points.

-- For the 10th straight game, C.J. Fair scored in double digits (10). However, he did it while compiling his worst shooting performance in Big East play (4-for-12).

-- With 3:06 remaining in the game, Syracuse led 61-55 and was seemingly in control. Yet, from there the Orange--much like Louisville and Cincinnati did in the past two games--went 0-for-2 from the field, including 0-for-1 at the foul line, and committed two turnovers. MCW attempted one shot, the free throw and committed both turnovers.

MCW's final stat line: 17 points on 4-for-17 shooting, including 8-for-14 from the charity stripe, four assists and five turnovers.

-- The biggest talking point to come out of Syracuse's loss to Villanova was Jim Boeheim's decision to not foul on the Wildcats' final possession of regulation, which led to Ryan Arcidiacono's game-tying 3-pointer.

The debate surrounds old-school and new-school philosophies where the old-schoolers say, "Shut up and just play defense. Too much can happen if you foul," while the new-schoolers say, "you're an idiot for not fouling and allowing an opponent a chance to tie the game."

If you looked around the Internet Sunday you would have found a handful of articles bashing Boeheim's decision--the best was probably written by the Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy.

In his post-game presser, Boeheim explained why he chose not to foul on 'Nova's initial 3-point attempt.

"The last play of the game, we defended it,’’ Boeheim said. "Sometimes we foul. We’re such a small lineup, I’m worried about fouling with 13 or 12 seconds on it. I think we’re going to have trouble getting the rebound. I thought we defended it well.’’

So, who is right in this specific situation? Well, before we decided here's what you need to know about the scenario:

  1. The best practice is to foul an opposing player with seven seconds remaining or less. According to the experts, if a team does this the odds favor fouling as the opposing team has a 5 percent chance of tying the game, while the chance of a game-tying 3-pointer being made is about 17-20 percent (it could be better depending on the look and caliber of shooter).
  2. Villanova inbounded the ball with about 14 seconds remaining.
  3. The initial 3-point attempt was made with just over nine seconds remaining.
  4. The rebound took place with about seven seconds remaining.
  5. The game-tying 3-pointer was made with 2.1 seconds to go.

If Syracuse decided to foul a 'Nova player right away it would have been too soon. The Orange would have just extended the game--something a team leading doesn't want to do.

However (and we're Monday Morning Quarterbacking here), the best play would have been to foul the rebounding player, Mouphtaou Yarou, or foul Arcidiacono hard; because the odds are against him making all three free throws.

None of that happened and nearly 48 hours later we're still wondering how Syracuse lost just its second Big East Conference contest in 30 games.

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