The Syracuse Orange fought back from an early deficit to earn a lead over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Wednesday night. However, it wouldn’t be enough. Some late miscues and foul trouble led to a 73-67 defeat down in Winston-Salem. And the Orange dropped to 12-3 on the season, and 1-1 in the ACC.
Though the largest takeaway from all of that is “we lost, dammit,” there are still some specifics to dive into. In particular, these three headers, which we’ll need to learn from in a hurry:
Syracuse can be outdone on the glass
If nothing else, we expected the Orange to win the battle of the boards vs. Wake, a team largely leaning on a single big (Doral Moore) to grab the lion’s share of their rebounds. Instead, SU was outrebounded by nine, with the Deacs pulling off a resounding 12-6 advantage on the offensive boards.
Going into Wednesday, Syracuse was 11th in the country in rebounds per game (41.9) and also 11th in offensive boards at 14.4 per game. The size advantage is obviously a big part of that effort for the Orange, but it clearly didn’t help much vs. Wake Forest. The Deacons’ guards combined for 13 rebounds and Moore dominated the offensive glass with five on that end alone.
With Marek Dolezaj playing just nine minutes, and Chukwu seemingly neutralized on the glass by Moore, the onus largely fell to Oshae Brissett and Matthew Moyer to help keep SU’s misguided possessions alive. They had just two offensive boards between them, and 15 overall.
Good Frank and Bad Frank share the spotlight
Frank Howard may be one of the country’s most improved players, but that doesn’t mean his play is perfect. Picking up the scoring load with Tyus Battle in foul trouble, the junior point guard managed 23 points on 50 percent shooting, and hit 5-of-7 from three. That’s a great stat line -- until you get to the turnovers.
Howard turned the ball over six times, versus just five assists on the night. One key giveaway included getting stripped as he went up for a late three that would have kept SU within a possession. Instead, the loose ball turned into an intentional foul call on Brissett. Then Howard, of course, hit a quick three on the other end to put the Orange back within a basket.
Turnovers have plagued Howard all year (he’s averaging over four per game), but you can look past them when it’s not impacting SU in the W-L column. He was far from the only reason the Orange lost to Wake. But those turnovers were certainly A reason for the defeat ripped from the jaws of victory.
SU’s followed the same script for nearly a month now
Since the start of the UConn game, the story’s been very much the same for the Orange. Shoot poorly early on, allow opponents to hit wide-open threes, battle back to make it close at the half, then pull away either right before the break or shortly after the second begins. There’s some delineation there, clearly, but it’s a rough outline of how the last eight contests have gone now.
When Syracuse wins those games, you can look past the struggles. But when the Orange pick up the loss, as they did against Wake, you start to hone in on the larger problems. SU can’t extend the zone to the wings, despite a roster full of players 6-foot-8 or taller. Every opponent knows this and is taking those shots early. If they go in, you’re leading and forcing SU to battle back. If not, you’re probably still in the game because the Orange can’t shoot either.
We knew what this team was going into 2017-18. And even if things have changed slightly, with Brissett’s offensive arrival, there’s still little creativity to be had with this group. One of three players is scoring on nearly every possession. The Orange will score a good deal of points from the charity stripe because of its offensive rebounding prowess. They will shoot more threes than necessary if only because of how much they struggle in the half-court offense.
Some of the above can be fixed on the fly. But that last note isn’t as simple. Syracuse will need to make some progress on playing a more complete game heading into this upcoming three-game stretch. Things start to get more difficult on Saturday vs. Notre Dame, which just got done dispatching NC State 88-58, despite not having Bonzie Colson in the lineup.