It was the ideal December weekend in Syracuse. Pearl Washington Day, lots of snow, 25,000-plus fans in the Dome and SU-Georgetown on the court.
The Orange couldn’t afford another non-conference loss, especially after dropping one to UConn at Madison Square Garden earlier this month. Unfortunately they did just that, losing 78-71 to the Hoyas.
After making his first two 3-pointers of the game, Andrew White virtually disappeared. He made just one field goal in the final 38 minutes of the game, and finished with 12 points.
“Right now, we’re just making too many mistakes,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game.
Those mistakes consists of, but are not limited to: free throws, turnovers, point guard play, lack-of rebounding and in-game adjustments, among other things.
Let’s start with free throws. The Orange missed 11 in the 78-71 loss to the Hoyas. Tyler Lydon and Andrew White — SU’s two most reliable scorers — missed six combined free throws. John Gillon - who shot over 87 percent from the line last season at Colorado State - went 2-of-4.
“It’s just something that happens from time to time,” Lydon said postgame. “It’s something that definitely adds up, and it’s frustrating looking back and seeing that we missed 11.”
Turnovers/point guard play was also a major issue on Saturday. Sophomore Frank Howard finished with a career-high six turnovers in 28 minutes of action. He did have four points and four assists, but he simply needs to be better.
“We’re just not playing well at the guard spot, I don’t think at all,” Boeheim said. “I think we’re making too many mistakes. We’re not getting the ball in the basket from the guard spot. We haven’t in any of the four losses. We’ve just gotta play better there.”
Graduate transfer John Gillon started his first career game at Syracuse and played a season-high 37 minutes. He scored 13 points, but missed a handful of contested layups.
“I’m disappointed in myself and it’s something I have to be better at,” Gillon said of his missed layups. “I’ll be better at it. I know I can do better and that’s what frustrated me so much today. I know Frank will bounce back, too. He has that mentality.”
By no stretch of the imagination is Georgetown an elite rebounding team, and yet the Hoyas handled SU on the glass, 41-30.
This is where it gets tough for Syracuse: do they go with an offensive lineup or defensive? Either way, senior Tyler Roberson won’t find his way onto the court. He’s lost, and Boeheim has run out of patience.
Last season, Boeheim said if he had anyone else, Roberson wouldn’t play. He’s followed through on that promise with the addition of Taurean Thompson, who played 27 minutes on Saturday. Roberson played just six.
“We’ve gotta rebound better as a team,” John Gillon said. “Whether that’s the guards crashing the boards or our bigs getting position, we all need to be better.”
As for in-game adjustments, Jim Boeheim hasn’t made many this season. Against Boston University last week, Cedric Hankerson connected on ten 3-pointers. All night he continued to receive open looks and knocked them down. No adjustments.
On Saturday, the Hoyas had little-to-no trouble getting the ball into the high post in the 2-3 zone. It led to either open 3’s, mid-range jumpers or an easy dunk from a Georgetown big.
John Thompson III - who has been on the hot seat of late - had his way with SU’s zone, and the Orange had no answer.
Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak combined for 43 points, while Jessie Govan had 12 points and ten rebounds.
Against UConn, Jim Boeheim didn’t have an in-game adjustment for Rodney Purvis, who connected on five 3-pointers for a game-high 21 points.
“We knew Purvis was a guy to get out on, we just didn’t do it,” Tyus Battle said following SU’s 52-50 loss earlier this month. “We didn’t make the right adjustments.”
Syracuse now has its back against the wall. Currently sitting at 6-4, the Orange hosts Eastern Michigan on Monday, and St. John’s on Wednesday of this week.
I’m always hesitant at labeling games as must-wins, especially in the December non-conference schedule. However, that’s the situation Syracuse is in now. These two games this week - and Cornell on the 27th - are must-wins before entering a brutal ACC schedule.