The Syracuse Orange pulled off a really nice win over the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. And while it’s probably more realistic to keep that one specific game isolated on its own, there are some things that really stood out from that effort that would be great to replicate going forward.
Below, we call out the top aspects of the win, and look at what it’ll take to see them again over the course of these final four regular season games (and hopefully beyond):
Creating opportunities for Marek Dolezaj
It’s no mystery that Syracuse has been a three-man show on offense for much of the 2017-18 season. And while that’s been fine for wins here and there, SU’s significantly more effective when a fourth player gets involved — even just by hitting a few shots here and there.
Such was the case when Marek Dolezaj started not just shooting, but hitting, from mid-range against Miami. He went 4-of-5 on the game, and had 11 points on the game. That was great, clearly. But the biggest benefit was the space those shots helped create for his teammates.
You saw the defensive movement after the first shot or two. The Hurricanes began the game ignoring Dolezaj in the paint and letting him operate in (largely) free space while honing in on Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard. Having a defender occupied by a fourth shooter creates more one-on-one matchups for those three primary scorers to exploit.
This shouldn’t be as tough of an ask as you’d think. Dolezaj may not shoot much, but he’s incredibly efficient (hits 51.7 percent of 3.3 shots per game). As long as the shot number stays where it’s been, it’s a subtle move that can open a lot more opportunities.
Assists trending back up
Syracuse has some of the worst ball movement in the country, and is last in the ACC both in overall assists per game (11.3) and in league play (10.07). Against Miami, they had 11. So while that’s not a huge uptick and it actually sits below the season average, it does show some progress for the Orange in one of the team’s major trouble areas.
Howard’s led the way there (he had six on Saturday), but the key is getting other players involved as well. Four different players tallied an assist for the Orange, which is probably as far as it’s going to get.
But 11 assists on 25 baskets is getting somewhere, and it does help cut down on the amount of isolation basketball where SU just hangs around the perimeter until someone chucks up an ill-advised three near the end of the shot clock. More passing the ball, please.
Keep fouls down
This was largely a product of Miami taking 31 threes, but Syracuse only committed 14 personal fouls against the ‘Canes and Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe were the only players with three. Having no one in true foul trouble all game allowed for greater lineup flexibility and kept the best lineups on the floor for as long as possible.
It’s also great to see SU able to crash the boards the way they did (37 on the game), while keeping out of foul trouble. Again, part of that’s due to Miami taking so many three-point shots. But the Orange did battle for plenty of them and came away without creating a ton of contact. That was also a benefit for Sidibe, who’s still on the mend and didn’t need to get knocked around down low.
If there’s one place Syracuse should probably strive to improve, it’s in terms of drawing fouls down low. The Orange took a lot of jumpers against Miami, and thankfully still shot just over 48 percent. That can’t be depended on every game. The offense is clearly more fluid when the guards are driving the lane and getting those fouls and trips to the line. Syracuse had just nine foul shots against the ‘Canes, and most of those were late in the second half.
Anything else you’d like to see more of going forward? Share your own ideas below.