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Syracuse vs. Arkansas State preview: Five things to watch

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Can the Orange end their ugly losing streak?

Buffalo v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has now dropped two straight games, and they stand at 7-4 as ACC play quickly approaches. But before the conference schedule starts, they’ll take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at the Carrier Dome this Saturday. If the Old Dominion loss taught us anything, it’s that there will be zero easy wins for the Orange this year...

Syracuse is in need of a win here in order to try and get this season somewhat back on track, and seeing decent offensive production would be a good way to start.

With that in mind, we dive into five things to watch when SU takes on the Red Wolves:

Can the Orange put together two halves of quality offense?

We aren’t asking for 90 to 100-point nights out of the Orange, but scoring 23 points in a half just won’t get the job done for Syracuse. SU’s offense failed them in the second half against Buffalo, as they got stagnant and were unable to hit shots when it mattered most.

Time and time again, the Orange are left forcing a tough contested shot up with the shot clock winding down, and that is because there is no movement on offense right now, as the ball handler looks to create on their own. Getting some easy buckets in transition would be a good way to help this offense get back into rhythm—that may be too much to ask for, however.

Can Tyus Battle get it going early?

Battle had just four points in the first half against Buffalo, and 11 overall, as he wasn’t able to help the Orange build a larger lead heading into the break. Battle is the Orange’s leader on offense, and they need him to look to get to the basket right from the tip if they want to be successful. Sure, it’s important to try and get Frank Howard, Oshae Brissett, and Elijah Hughes in a rhythm, but this team will go as far as Battle takes them, and that starts when the ball is thrown in the air.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Turnover battle

The Orange had 16 turnovers in their last game, which allowed the Buffalo Bulls to score 15 points off of those. Syracuse had three players with at least three turnovers, which is unacceptable given that they are three of the players Syracuse truly relies on: Hughes (6), Battle (3) and Howard (3). Syracuse needs to focus on limiting their turnovers if they want to see any improvement on the offensive end of the floor. That’s tough when ball movement is the only thing that’s going to get this offense going.

Slowing down Ty Cockfield

The Red Wolves are led by Ty Cockfield, who averages a team-high 21.3 points per game on 45% shooting. Cockfield is able to score from all parts of the floor, so it’ll be important that Syracuse doesn’t lose track of him running around the perimeter. This game can get tight if Cockfield is able to get hot from deep late, so look for the Orange to keep tabs on the go-to player for the Red Wolves (or perhaps, let him get his points and then let the zone suffocate everyone else).

Where is the dominant Oshae Brissett?

Brissett has had just two games with over 20 points this season, a number the Orange surely expected to be higher at this point of the season. Brissett needs to be the Robin to Battle’s Batman if Syracuse is going to regroup, and that starts Saturday afternoon; Brissett needs to look to get his shot inside early and often if he wants to be the player he was last year.

While he’s shooting better from the field (37.7 percent this year versus 35.4 percent last year), he’s hitting just 27 percent of threes on over four attempts per game. He’s also hitting at a 13-percent lower clip from the free throw line. It all equates to him being less effective both inside and out, removing the versatility that made him so dangerous last year.