Frustration. Syracuse Orange players, coaches, and fans are certainly having a difficult time with the 0-3 ACC start, the first 0-3 conference start for Syracuse since the 1996-97 season. After last night's 74-73 loss to the Clemson Tigers, players were quick to take blame, or responsibility, for the loss. Malachi Richardson said his missed free throw was the difference, telling syracuse.com's Donna Ditota this:
"If I make the second free throw after the timeout," Malachi Richardson said flatly, "we win the game."
Trevor Cooney and Tyler Lydon blamed their play on Clemson's final possession of regulation when Gabe Devoe was able to hit the tying 3-pointer. A Syracuse foul would have left Clemson shooting 1 and 1, but in the scrambled situation, the players did not follow the plan of Coach Mike Hopkins to foul if the clock went under 8 seconds. Both players told Chris Carlson, they made mistakes:
"At the end I shouldn't have given up that corner 3," Lydon said. "That was the only thing that could tie it. I gave that up. I feel like it's just on me. It's not a good feeling."
"Yeah, we did talk about fouling," Cooney said. "We wanted to go under 8 (seconds) and foul. It was perfect. The center had the ball and was looking to kick it out. We just should have fouled. Going back now, I can see it. I think I was there. I should have known I should have fouled. It's the right play. You just get caught up in the moment...."
So what exactly happened on that final possession, well let's break it down with some screen shots. In this first one, you can see the way the Syracuse defense is extended on the play, forcing Tyler Lydon to have responsibility for Davoe in the corner.
While Richardson might be too far out on the wing, Syracuse seems in pretty good position. As the ball goes to Davoe in the corner, both Lydon and Richardson converge.
Syracuse still has the 3-pt shot defended, leaving Landry Nnoko free in the middle as Davoe's only option.
Right here is where Syracuse makes the mistake. Cooney, Lydon, and Tyler Roberson are all converging on the basket. A lay-up or a non-shooting foul is what the Orange would want in this situation. Giving up two points would leave a 1-pt lead and about 7 seconds. Instead the collapsing defense leaves an option for Nnoko to get the ball back out to the perimeter.
And now the Orange are in trouble. Donte Grantham is receiving the pass and he's got options as the defenders try to react to the ball movement
Gbinije and Richardson converge quickly to take away Grantham's shot, but Cooney is stuck behind Nnoko, Tyler Roberson is moving to cover Avry Holmes on the opposite wing, and Jaron Blossingame is open at the foul line. Grantham makes the quick decision to go back to Davoe in the corner and he's able to rise and fire before Lydon can complete the close-out.
While Cooney and Lydon accepted the blame, there were issues with the entire possession. Gbinije was the only Syracuse player to maintain his assignment relative to the situation. Cooney and Roberson collapsing in the middle left other open options for Grantham to choose from as the Orange scrambled to get back to cover the 3. When Nnoko had the ball, everyone should have ignored him, but as Cooney said, in the heat of the moment, players react on instinct and mistakes were made. Unfortunately for this Syracuse team, this lead to a loss that was one the Orange couldn't afford.