clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Miami 66 - Syracuse 62: Five Big Takeaways

The Orange lost to the 'Canes last night. Here's what we learned.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami-Florida Hurricanes outlasted the Syracuse Orange 66-62 on Saturday afternoon, dropping the Orange to 5-2 in ACC play in front of 30,667 attendees. Here are five big takeaways:

1. Syracuse can't afford slow starts to halves.

We'll get to the free throw shooting shortly, but SU had issues aside from its struggles from the charity stripe yesterday. Chief among those issues were the slow starts Syracuse suffered through at the start of each half. The Orange fell behind 10-1 in the opening minutes and later trailed 24-14 in the first half. And though Syracuse pulled into a 26-26 halftime tie, that didn't prevent Miami from ripping off an 18-6 run to begin the second half, grabbing a 44-32 lead. It was a deficit the Orange proved incapable of overcoming, despite cutting the lead to one point in the final minute. With the ACC schedule only getting more and more difficult, Syracuse won't be able to afford digging itself such deep holes as it moves forward.

2. Free throw shooting finally catches up to the Orange.

The Orange struggled at the free throw line down the stretch yesterday, something that has slowly become a theme for Jim Boeheim's group. Similar issues at the stripe nearly cost SU double-digit leads against both Virginia Tech and Boston College earlier this month, but in both instances it survived. On Saturday, Syracuse wasn't so lucky. The Orange had several chances to come away with a win, but lousy free throw shooting proved too much to overcome. SU finished 8-of-19 from the line and unintentionally missed four free throws in the game's final 3:30. If Syracuses makes just a few more free throws, it's probably sitting at 6-1 in ACC play today.

3. In one of the season's toughest tests, Rak was still Rak.

Rakeem Christmas got off to a slow start yesterday, scoring only five points in the first half and starting 2-of-9 from the field. But as he seemingly has all season long, the big man bounced back. Christmas finished with a game-high 23 points and eight rebounds. He now has six 20-point games this season, and only once all season has he not scored in double figures. The guy has become a machine, and Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said last night that he feels Christmas will be worthy of a first-round NBA draft pick. Whether or not that's accurate remains to be seen, but Christmas's importance to this team can't be overstated at this point.

4. When Christmas isn't himself, Roberson shows he's capable of producing.

As touched on above, Christmas wasn't at his best in the first half yesterday. Nine times out of 10, the Orange likely wouldn't have been able to overcome that. But, fortunately, Tyler Roberson stepped up while his partner in the frontcourt struggled. Roberson scored eight first half points to help keep Syracuse afloat, and his success forced the Hurricanes to pay more attention to him in the second half, freeing up space for Christmas. Christmas will almost certainly be the focus point for opposing defenses, making it that much more important for Roberson to produce in the coming months.

5. The NCAA Tournament might not be a reality.

It's a tough pill to swallow, but Syracuse has work to do if it hopes to make the NCAA Tournament this spring. Most experts had SU as one of the "last four in" in the most recent projected fields, and yesterday's loss likely puts the Orange behind the eight ball. Worst of all, the gauntlet of the conference schedule still remains. Syracuse has games left against North Carolina, Duke (twice), Louisville, Virginia, and NC State. Needless to say, the Orange could surely use a couple of wins against those teams.