WASHINGTON, D.C. — In Syracuse's 79-72 loss to Georgetown at the Verizon Center on Saturday, it became more evident than ever that the Orange will get consistently outperformed on the boards this season. Despite the Hoyas entering today as, per kenpom.com, just the 259th-best offensive rebounding team in college basketball, they grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Orange by nine in the first half.
Fortunately for Syracuse, it has a recipe for overcoming that deficiency: heating up from behind the 3-point line. But it will be nearly impossible for the Orange to beat good teams when they also struggle to make 3s, which is exactly what happened here today. They finished 7-of-27 from beyond the arc, failing to overcome Georgetown's dominance on the boards.
SU's three highest-volume 3-point shooters — Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson — went a combined 6-of-22 from 3.
"Especially in the first half, we did too much one-on-one," Gbinije said, when asked about those issues. "We could've done a better job of moving the ball."
Syracuse actually ended up not getting destroyed on the boards like it did on Wednesday against Wisconsin, when the Badgers grabbed 26 more rebounds than the Orange. On Saturday, SU finished with 32 rebounds to GU's 35.
But when the Hoyas did most of their damage, they were relentless on the glass, opening up their lead to as many as 21 points as Syracuse missed shot after shot.
Both issues were perfectly captured during a sequence that spanned roughly 17 seconds early in the second half. On one end, Georgetown's Bradley Hayes essentially played volleyball, missing two layups but grabbing both offensive boards before making the third layup, getting fouled and making the free throw to convert the 3-point play.
Then, on SU's ensuing possession, Malachi Richardson had an open look at a 3 from the left wing, but his shot clanked off the rim and the ball fell into the arms of Georgetown's Marcus Derrickson.
Not all of the Orange's 3-point looks were as makeable as that one, though. Georgetown has a relatively stingy perimeter defense — holding opponents to a 31.3% clip from beyond the arc — and forced Syracuse into a number of difficult shots.
"(Georgetown) did a good job of hedging on screens, giving extra help in the lane and recovering once we did kick it out to the shooters," Gbinije said. "Credit them, they did a good job."
Syracuse managed to make a run in the second half, sparked by improvements in both its rebounding and 3-point attack. After falling behind 47-26 with 16:16 to play, SU won roughly the game's next 15 minutes by 15 points.
During that span, Syracuse outrebounded Georgetown, 19-12, preventing the Hoyas from getting the second and third chance opportunities they so often got in the first half and early in the second. The Orange also shot 5-of-13 from 3, including a stretch in which they made five out of nine.
"Our guys, I was very proud of them," said Mike Hopkins, who was serving as SU's head coach in place of the suspended Jim Boeheim. "They just kept fighting."
Ultimately, though, Syracuse didn't have enough time to fight all the way back from a hole that it had simply dug too deep. After Franklin Howard made a jumper to cut Georgetown's lead to 74-68, only 35 seconds remained. From there, the Hoyas went 5-of-6 at the free throw line, preventing SU from pulling off a miracle.
Like Wednesday's loss to Wisconsin, it was a glaring reminder of the team the Orange will be if they continue to struggle on the boards and can't make a decent percentage of their 3s.
Said Cooney: "We just have to get back to playing the way that we can and the way that we're good at."