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Syracuse struggles to break full court press in Bahamas

The blueprint is out on how to defend Syracuse.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Syracuse Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — In the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s first game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, VCU put its full-court press on for the entirety of the game.

The Rams forced Syracuse into a season-high 16 turnovers and a season-low eight assists.

On Thursday night, Syracuse went up as much as 18 against Arizona State. About midway through the second half, Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley elected to turn to his press to try to get back into the game. It worked.

“You know they’re going to press,” Jim Boeheim said following Thursday night’s game. “They’ve gotta do whatever they can to get back in the game. We didn’t handle it very well. Joe [Girard] turned it over once. Jimmy [Boeheim] once. I think everyone turned it over once.”

Syracuse turned it over 11 times but the box score doesn’t indicate how difficult it was to get the ball over into the half court.

“I thought we actually had more turnovers than that. 11 is not is bad as I thought it was,” Boeheim said.

The Orange nearly squandered a double-digit lead as Arizona State cut Syracuse’s advantage to just seven late. Syracuse looked out of sorts in spots and burned through all of its timeouts early. Buddy Boeheim called a timeout in a sideline trap. Jimmy Boeheim had to call a timeout after being unable to inbound the ball.

“We didn’t handle the press as well as we should’ve,” Boeheim added.

Errant passes and miscues resulted in turnovers, although recovered possessions resulted in Syracuse’s favor.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Syracuse Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Girard has had the unenviable task of handling pressure for nearly 50 minutes in back to back games which have led to his 10 combined turnovers in the event. He had just seven turnovers in Syracuse’s first three games to go along with 20 assists. He’ll have to be better, but he could use some help in handling the pressure. Jimmy Boeheim has looked to fill in for Marek Dolezaj as a point forward that can aid in pressure release.

Still, Syracuse needs to do a better job taking care of the ball. Perhaps tired legs also played a factor in Syracuse’s difficulties in breaking the pressure. The starters all logged at least 35 minutes on Thursday. Benny Williams and Symir Torrence only played six minutes each off the bench.

“I was a little disappointed tonight,” Boeheim admitted. “I wanted to get Benny and Sy in there a little bit more but with the pressure I didn’t want to take a chance late with two inexperienced players getting in there. We’re tired. This was a tough game, two tough games. VCU was in our face the whole game.”

With no rest for the weary through two games, Syracuse might have to turn Torrence, Williams and Frank Anselem against Auburn.

“We’re going to have to play those three guys tomorrow and get these guys some rest during the game,” Boeheim said.