In the first half of yesterday’s game against South Carolina, Syracuse was having trouble getting dribble penetration against the Gamecocks’ defensive pressure. When an on-ball defender is in your shorts, the first thing any player worth his salt will do is blow by his man off the bounce. Similarly, off-ball offensive players who are overplayed by the defense should cut back door. This is basketball 101 — but easier said than done.
Syracuse struggled mightily against South Carolina’s defense. Make no mistake, this is a tremendous defensive team — the Gamecocks held No. 25 ranked Michigan to just 46 points on 19.2% shooting on Wednesday. That’s not a typo, Michigan shot just 19.2% from the floor against Frank Martin’s team.
With that in mind, as Syracuse struggled turning the ball over in the first half, Jim Boeheim elected to run Frank Howard and John Gillon together after the under eight minute media timeout. Once he did, the Orange went on a 5-0 run before Howard picked up his third foul and was forced to sit.
For most of the second half, Boeheim again opted to play his two point-guards simultaneously.
“Well we weren’t getting anything done. We needed to try to get some dribble penetration. Frank got in the lane a little bit, Johnny did a little bit. We didn’t do a very good job of finishing in there and making plays in those situations. Second half I though we started out better, we got in there and kicked it out better. But we didn’t really accomplish what we’d like to. We don’t really have a low-post game and we have to get penetration from our guards and the best way to do that is to have Johnny and Frank in there at the same time, push Andrew down to the forward spot. Against pressure defense that should be a lineup that works. It partially worked for a little while but it wasn’t the answer,”
Boeheim said in the post-game presser following the 64-50 loss.
As far as Frank Howard is concerned, he sees the advantage of having he and Gillon in at the same time.
“Yeah you know when both of us are in there we can both attack from different angles. He can draw in the defense as well as me, I think I got a shot off of one his passes. We keep the defense off balance. We’re usually against each other in practice but in the games we just go with it. It’s not hard to adjust,”
Howard said after the game. Indeed he was right as Howard knocked down a three off a feed from Gillon.
Syracuse turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. With Gillon and Howard in together in the second, the Orange as a collective only turned it over six times. Whether the two point guards get much run contemporaneously moving forward remains to be seen. But if teams are going to pressure Syracuse, look for Boeheim to combat that with his two best ball handlers.