It was starting to look like the game was out of reach for the Syracuse Orange, but then Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, and Oshae Brissett decided to take things into their own hands. The Syracuse big three mounted an impressive comeback to tie the game at 74 with 3:09 remaining.
What followed that Tyus Battle pull-up jumper were similarities from the first half offense the Orange were showing: stagnant ball watching. The Orange’s defense held its own for that final 3:09, holding the North Carolina Tar Heels to four points, but the Orange started to play hero ball, rather than doing what got them back in the game in the first place: attacking the rim.
So what went wrong for the Orange in that final 3:09?
Well, first let’s take a look at the first questionable decision that occurred following that Battle jumper, which was Oshae Brissett’s missed corner three. The Orange had been attacking the rim with ease in the latter part of the second half, as their dribble penetration opened up easy looks around the rim that were either converted for baskets or led to free throw opportunities.
Brissett had been feeling his three-point shot, but we all know he is much more of a dynamic scoring threat when he attacks the rim off the dribble, not settling for contested corner threes. With the Orange mounting a dominant 8-0 run, you could bet that the Tar Heels were feeling the effects of fatigue and the more than 27,000 people in attendance at the Carrier Dome.
By settling, Brissett took the North Carolina defense out of the equation, while if he took his man off the dribble, the freshman forward could have finished a play at the rim, gone to the free throw line, or find another open player on the wing. Without Brissett the Orange would have had no shot in being in this game late, but he needs to be better when it comes to making smart decisions late in close games.
Next up is the costly Paschal Chukwu turnover that led to the eventual game-winning layup for Joel Berry II. Chukwu had a dominant game on defense, finishing with 11 rebounds and four blocks. However, the 7’2” center had his impressive offensive rebound forgotten when he had the ball taken from him at the top of the key.
With the Orange having the chance to take the lead, Syracuse absolutely needed to get another shot up as it would have at least possibly given them a second chance opportunity. Instead, Chukwu failed to maintain possession of the ball, and handed Berry the game in the matter of a second.
With the Orange down two with :32 seconds remaining, coach Jim Boeheim came out of a timeout with a play drawn for Battle to catch the ball. However, Chukwu screened the wrong guy on the play, leaving Howard to have to make a play at the top of the key, and unfortunately saw his deep three fail to go in.
“Get Tyus coming off the screen,” coach Boeheim said regarding what he wanted coming out of that timeout. “Paschal really went into the wrong screen; he should have been screening for him—bad mistake.”
The Orange put up an impressive effort against the defending National Champions, but the “bad mistakes” cost them a game they truly could have won. Up next is Duke, and if the Orange want to walk out of Cameron Indoor Stadium with a win, they are going to need to make the smart plays when the game clock is ticking down -- which has been an off-and-on proposition all year