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Three takeaways from Syracuse’s 81-75 loss to North Carolina

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I am once again asking you to find Rakeem Christmas and return him to Syracuse

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange couldn’t keep up with the North Carolina Tar Heels on the boards as SU lost 81-75 to UNC on Tuesday night. The Tar Heels kept getting opportunity after opportunity on the offensive glass while key turnovers and missed shots down the stretch prevented Syracuse from battling back.

Good games from Buddy Boeheim and Quincy Guerrier weren’t enough for Syracuse to overcome the many second chances that North Carolina got on the offensive end on the floor. With that said, here are our takeaways from a tough loss:

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Firmly grasp it

Rebounding was key coming into the game, and Syracuse still hasn’t won a game when its opponent wins the battle on the boards. The Tar Heels took full advantage of that on the offensive end, with UNC grabbing 24 offensive rebounds to SU’s 21 defensive rebounds. That led to 24 second chance points for the Tar Heels.

What became frustrating is that Syracuse could have easily denied some of those offensive rebounds because Orange players were first to the ball. However, those players didn’t get a firm handle on the the missed shot and the ball bounced to a UNC player. There were multiple times during the second half where Syracuse players didn’t cleanly come down with the ball after a rebound which allowed a UNC player to either scoop up the ball on the perimeter or gobble up mishandled board. While the rebounding margin would probably have still gone in favor of the Tar Heels, it could’ve looked much different.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Stop isolating, start passing, continue moving

I wrote after the Boston College game that Syracuse’s passing and off-ball movement was the best way for the Orange offense to run. Ever since that point, there’s been an increased focus on isolation ball, which doesn’t play to Syracuse’s strengths. Orange players are far too inconsistent in one-on-one matchups for that style of play to be a reliable source of offense. The scoring lulls that Syracuse went on during the game are a key example of that isolation ball failing.

What allowed the Orange to go on the runs that they did was the passing and off-ball movement to create open shots and passing lanes. Syracuse’s offense looked fluid, reliable, and consistent in those scenarios. However, after a short period of time, the ball would get stuck in one player’s hands as no one moved around the court to open up a lane. The ball movement needs to be a focus once again for Syracuse’s offense to return to its early-season form.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Mid-game adjustments

What’s probably more concerning for Syracuse as well is that seemingly every game, there is a bright moment of offense in the middle of the contest before the opponent battles right back. This was on display yet again after Buddy Boeheim was lights out to end the first half and after the small run that Syracuse went on in the middle of the second half. The Tar Heels adjusted well to how the Orange adapted their play style while Syracuse didn’t, which led to empty possessions on offense.

Syracuse seemingly gets too lazy during the game after taking a lead and doesn’t do enough to react to how the opponent is trying to mount a comeback. As the Tar Heels adjusted their ball movement, Syracuse sat back and stayed passive on offense. The Orange need to keep up with their opponents adapting throughout the game in order to convert second-half leads into wins.