Columbus, OH — After falling to 2-2 on the season following back-to-back losses at Madison Square Garden, the Syracuse Orange were in a rough spot. For a team with National Championship aspirations and five returning starters, SU was playing like a team that was still figuring things out.
Granted, Jim Boeheim was playing without his starting senior point guard in Frank Howard, but the offense was a huge concern and defensively Syracuse was struggling. Last night, Syracuse picked up an important win over Ohio State on the road, the No. 1 team in the NET rankings.
While commentary surrounding the NET rating methodology has been nebulous, we do know that it will be an important deciding factor come Selection Sunday. You can bet Syracuse’s win on the road over Ohio State will be vital for seeding in March — we’ve seen how much emphasis the selection committee places on road wins in the past.
The Orange also needed to secure a win last night to avoid falling to 3-3. Back in the fold for his second game after a left ankle injury was Frank Howard and he too understood how important the game was.
“Oh we needed it. Needed it. That was the conversation all week. We’re not shying away from the pressure or things of that nature or adversity. We needed it. We knew it. We weren’t uptight,” Howard said. “We’ve been here before I feel like and all week guys have been locking in.”
For Syracuse to earn a win on the road by double-digits over a ranked opponent is impressive. What’s probably most impressive though is the team’s ability to win with three players fouling out. Seven of Syracuse’s players had at least three fouls — the Orange picked up 28 fouls to Ohio State’s 17.
“Yeah it’s definitely hard. I felt like, especially down low, they were really physical. The big guy is a good player,” Howard said, who fouled out. “I feel like I always get caught with us being bigger guards, you know we get caught a little bit. I gotta be smarter than that.”
Howard was one of the three guys to foul out in the contest along with Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj. Jalen Carey was the only Syracuse player to get minutes without picking up a foul. Every other player had at least three or more fouls, something he admits was hard for his teammates and the game’s rhythm.
“It’s definitely hard. It’s hard for players to get doing. I know Oshae had a rough first half, got in some foul trouble and stuff like that,” Jalen Carey began. “I feel like once the game is called tight, it might be hard to get into a rhythm, once refs let us play I feel like the game just flows so much better.”
The game certainly does flow better without whistles. With this being the first meeting between these two basketball programs since 2012, many alluded to that Elite 8 matchup where 48 fouls were called. This game didn’t quite get up to 48, but interestingly enough, Syracuse was whistled for 28 fouls in both last night’s contest and that Elite 8 game.