As we’ve mentioned on so many occasions this year, the Syracuse Orange will not be handed easy wins this season — especially on the road in ACC play. Tonight was a perfect example of that as the Orange gave away a win to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons by the score of 73-67.
The first 13:49 of the first half showcased the weaknesses that the Orange have shown this season. Their offense was stagnant and passive as they were left taking contested jump shots late in the shot clock. They were reluctant to push the ball in transition which let the Demon Deacons set up their “jump shot forcing” zone.
The offense wasn’t the only problem during that stretch as the defense took a step back from it’s stellar performance against Virginia Tech. Wake Forest found easy opportunities to lob the ball over the back side of the zone, something that has hurt the Orange on countless occasions this year. The Demon Deacons also used the perimeter to their advantage, as dribble drives allowed for open shooters to be left beyond the arc.
It was starting to look like this game was really getting away from Syracuse, but a dominant 15-4 run to end the half gave them the three-point lead heading into the break. They started to push the ball off of misses which allowed for the “big three” to get easy looks around the rim. Sure a few perimeter jump shots falling helped, but the Orange become so much more dangerous when they attack in transition.
Tyus Battle got to the free throw line to help him add eight points in the first frame (Battle finished with 13), but it was Frank Howard who hit a three to end the half that capped off his 11-point half (23 total where he saw three of his four threes fall.
The second half was starting to look great for the Orange as they captured the 38-34 lead with a backdoor dunk by Matthew Moyer (the highlight of any Syracuse game), but Battle got his fourth foul with 12:55 remaining in the half with the score tied at 38. The absence of Battle led to zero field goals made, but the Orange used the free throw line to make up for his absence. Despite success from the charity strike, Wake Forest was able to counter it with some made threes, prompting a Coach Jim Boeheim timeout, to give them a 46-44 lead with 8:51 remaining.
The Orange came out of the timeout needing a bucket, and they got it in a Frank Howard three, followed by a dunk by Paschal Chukwu and another jumper from Howard to give them a five-point lead. It was starting to look like the Orange were taking over, but two threes from Bryant Crawford kept the Demon Deacons within striking distance. A few missed free throws and made Wake Forest threes gave the Demon Deacons the 59-56 lead, and they didn’t look back.
Some made threes by the Demon Deacons helped them pull away late, but it was the bad mistakes by the Orange that really hurt them late. Some questionable shots at the end, along with the typical missed free throws doomed the Orange in a game they should have won. The Orange will need to fix their offensive woes quickly as they return to the Carrier Dome on Saturday to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.