Where has that been all season?
The Syracuse Orange looked rather impressive in an upset victory over the No. 16/14 Virginia Tech Hokies, winning 78-60 at the Carrier Dome. The Syracuse offense looked like a much different entity than the one that looked wildly inconsistent to start the 2021 ACC schedule. The best part is that the offense that the Orange showcased looks like a sustainable and reasonable game plan that Syracuse can use in almost every game the rest of the season.
Here are three takeaways from the Orange victory:
Attacking the rim
It looked really hopeless for Syracuse when the Orange wouldn’t stop chucking up threes during the start of 2021. Yet in those early losses, there was a sign of hope that Syracuse’s offense wouldn’t become totally inept. Almost every Orange player has showed an exceptional ability to find high-percentage looks at the rim and finish inside the arc. If the Orange could find the right balance with shot selection, the offense could be revived.
Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech illustrated that balance perfectly as it became abundantly clear that Syracuse didn’t have it going from three to start the game. Almost immediately the focus shifted to an interior attack, with a great mixture of passing to the post, penetrating the paint, and overpowering one-on-one matchups.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to many that an interior-focused game would allow Quincy Guerrier to score 20 points and 9 rebounds. Marek Dolezaj scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half to spark the initial Syracuse surge. Alan Griffin came alive and did a little bit of everything, scoring 15 points with 10 rebounds and 7 blocks.
Most impressively, Syracuse only took 13 of its 55 field goal attempts from three. That means that the Orange took 76.4% of its shots from inside the arc. Syracuse only made four three all game. It’s an impressive look from an offense that many thought needed to score three pointers to hang with opponents.
Kadary Richmond’s influence
While the Orange frontcourt will garner most of the praise and attention with good reason, you cannot impact that Richmond had off the bench. His defense is clearly levels better than the other Syracuse guards and his introduction to the game almost single-handedly neutralized Virginia Tech’s hot start from beyond the arc. Offensively, his dribble-penetration is something to behold as he has an uncanny ability to make defenders dance.
The only knocks on his performance were some questionable fouls that may or may not have been his fault and a lack of assists with only one against the Hokies. But Richmond continues to make a great case that he should get more playing time and Syracuse improves on both sides of the ball when he enters the game.
Don’t leave emptyhanded
This game could’ve gotten away from the Orange in the first half as there were a couple of Virginia Tech runs that kept the game close initially. The main reason for that was there were some empty offensive possessions for Syracuse that immediately translated to a VT score on the other end of the court. The Orange would often commit a sloppy turnover or foul that would leave SU emptyhanded rather quickly on the offensive end.
While there weren’t many bad shot-selection errors, a large part of that was because Syracuse cleaned up on the offensive glass with 10 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points. Too often the Orange used to take a bad shot early in the shot clock and wouldn’t come up with the offensive rebound to get another shot. Limiting all of the above errors limited the runs and the momentum that Virginia Tech needed to get back into the game.