Despite them scoring nearly 90 percent of the points last night, the Syracuse Orange’s the dominant performance of the “Big Three” wasn’t enough to pull off the upset. The North Carolina Tar Heels are one of the most talented teams in the nation, hence their No. 10 ranking, so the Orange were going to need to play a near perfect game if they wanted to walk away with a resume boosting win.
The effort cannot be questioned, as the Orange mounted an impressive comeback late to tie the game at 74, but a few key mistakes made the triumvirate’s offensive breakout all for nothing.
However, the 66-point performance from Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, and Oshae Brissett deserves some recognition, as their dynamic scoring abilities gave the packed Carrier Dome some hope throughout the 40-minute battle against the Tar Heels.
The first half was full of stagnant offense for the Orange, as they stood around and watched one of the three perimeter scorers try to beat their man in an isolation set. While Howard, Battle, and Brissett are dynamic scorers, they are not capable of beating a top 10 team on their own, as this offense thrives when the ball is moving and the guards are penetrating.
There was a brief moment during the first half where Battle started to attack the paint, leading to an 11-2 run for the Orange, but that was followed with more isolation plays, leading to long rebounds and fast breaks for the Tar Heels. If it wasn’t for a buzzer beating three from Brissett to end the half, Syracuse would have been heading into the break with their heads down and carrying a double digit deficit.
That all changed after half time.
The Orange started to move the ball in the half court, which opened up driving lanes for the perimeter players, leading to easy shots around the rim and kick-out threes. Syracuse isn’t a good three-point shooting team, but Howard and Brissett had their shot falling, combining for 8-18 shooting from deep.
The game truly changed when the Orange were able to push the ball in transition, giving the ball to Battle to make nifty moves inside the paint. All three of these players have the ability to beat their guy off the dribble, but it was Battle’s game high 26 points that put the Orange back in the game late.
Brissett and Howard’s ability to hit key threes caused the Tar Heels’ defense to play honest, as they had to decide whether to go out on shooters or pack the lane for drives. All three players only need a little bit of breathing room to take their man off the dribble, but last night showed that they can dominate in the half court if they have the defense worrying about perimeter shooters.
Brissett finished with a double double (17 points and 10 rebounds), his 11th of the season, as he used his athleticism to counter any look the Tar Heels threw at him. Howard did all he could, finishing with 23 points, but his three-point attempt to give the Orange the lead wouldn’t go, and the Orange couldn’t come back from it.
This game solidified two things we already knew: the Syracuse’s Big Three is as dynamic a scoring trio as there gets, and that even when they play near perfect basketball, the Orange still won’t be guaranteed wins.
The Orange will have another chance this Saturday to get a resume-boosting win on the road against Duke, but this time they may need even more from their Big Three. The problem is: is that even possible?