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A closer look at Syracuse men’s basketball’s second half shooting

We take a deeper dive into an already deep dive.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Baylor vs Syracuse Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com did a deep dive into the Syracuse Orange 2018-19 men’s basketball season. The article looked at some of the good, bad and ugly from a team perspective, especially the second-half woes for the Orange.

We’re taking this a little further and breaking down some individual numbers from the losses. These are the shooting numbers in the 2nd half of those games from the players expected to contribute to the Syracuse offense.

2nd half shooting in losses

Opponent Tyus Battle Frank Howard Elijah Hughes Oshae Brissett Buddy Boeheim Marek Dolezaj Total
Opponent Tyus Battle Frank Howard Elijah Hughes Oshae Brissett Buddy Boeheim Marek Dolezaj Total
UConn 5/11 0/0 3/8 2/8 0/0 0/0 10/27
Oregon 2/5 0/0 3/6 2/7 0/1 1/1 8/20
Old Dominion 1/7 1/3 2/5 2/8 0/0 1/1 7/24
Buffalo 2/5 1/6 2/7 1/8 0/0 0/0 6/26
Georgia Tech 1/6 1/4 2/4 3/6 2/9 0/0 9/29
Virginia Tech 1/5 2/8 1/5 3/5 1/2 1/1 9/27
Florida State 2/6 0/1 2/6 4/5 1/4 0/1 9/23
NC State 1/4 5/10 0/1 0/6 1/4 2/3 9/28
Duke 2/9 0/5 1/6 2/6 1/1 2/3 8/30
North Carolina 4/9 1/4 0/2 3/6 2/4 0/0 10/25
Virginia 3/10 0/1 2/3 1/2 1/6 0/3 7/25
Clemson 1/5 1/3 0/1 2/3 1/5 0/1 5/18
Duke 0/0 5/10 1/4 3/7 4/5 1/2 14/28
Baylor 4/11 0/0 1/6 2/5 0/3 1/2 8/27
Player Total 29/93 17/55 20/64 30/82 14/44 9/18 119/357
31.10% 30.90% 31.25% 36.58% 31.81% 50% 33.33%

Now let’s look at each player individually starting with Tyus Battle. In the 13 losses he played in (so everything but the Duke ACC Tournament game), Battle only made four or more shots from the field in the half on three occasions. As the player the Orange looked to for offense his struggles in the losses certainly stands out. This doesn’t mean that we’re assigning blame to Battle but rather to illustrate how difficult it can be when you are asking one player to bail you out of tough situations.

Frank Howard’s final season was certainly disappointing for a number of reasons. It looked like he might be rounding into form against NC State but then he was a complete non-factor until facing Duke in the ACC Tournament.

In the Syracuse losses, Elijah Hughes was held in check after halftime. Against UNC and Baylor he made eleven shots in the first half only to come back in the second half with one total made field goal in the two games. Consistency is going to be a big thing for Hughes to find next season. He’s shown the ability to get scorching out for a stretch, but he’ll need to avoid these droughts in 2019-20.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The best second-half offensive player among the starters last season was Oshae Brissett. His overall numbers didn’t deliver up to expectations but Brissett’s numbers in these games could point to a bounce-back season should he return to Syracuse. We’d hope to see more of him working near the basket next year, which would give him a better chance of improving his shooting.

It was a better than expected first season for Buddy Boeheim, but even he was not immune to the second-half swoons. Playing extended minutes down the stretch might be reason for the shots not falling, but as teams pay him more attention Buddy will need to continue to develop his ability to drive the ball against defenders.

The only criticism of Marek Dolezaj is that he’s probably still too unselfish. We all saw better offensive movement when he’s on the court, but Marek needs to trust his own game a little bit more. It’s a small sample size, but anyone who can still hit 50% from the field against the better defensive teams needs to be more aggressive.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What can we glean from this for next year’s Syracuse team? Well a group having more balance could be a bonus against better competition. As we saw from the Virginia Cavaliers an elite defense isn’t always going to be enough to win games, especially in March. A balanced offensive attack takes pressure off of individual players and can help a team win games even when their opponent is making some shots.

Syracuse had three straight games where they lost first half leads against Top 10 teams. Maintaining a solid offensive game for forty minutes could have resulted in more wins and a better seed in the NCAA Tournament. The margin for error is smaller when playing at a slower tempo as Syracuse prefers so a solid summer of shooting work could push next year’s squad a bit higher than we might expect.