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Syracuse men’s basketball’s second half struggles this season

The Orange are giving away games in the final stanza

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Syracuse Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With a week between Syracuse Orange men’s basketball games, we have some time to dive in and reflect on what has the squad sitting at 5-5. One glaring issue is the defense where the Orange currently rank 333rd in the country with opponents averaging 77.9 points per game.

Jim Boeheim has already tried to tweak his zone to help cover for his team’s inability to stop opponents. The 1-1-3 line-up really impacted the Florida State Seminoles and that road win looked like a turning point for this Syracuse season. When the Orange went into halftime with a lead over the Villanova Wildcats you had fans already dreaming of the magical March run. Then a very not funny thing happened and Villanova and then the Georgetown Hoyas erased halftime deficits and sent the Orange to the final exam break on a very down note.

Scoring by half

Opponent 1st Half Syracuse 1st Half Opponent 2nd Half Syracuse 2nd Half Opponent
Opponent 1st Half Syracuse 1st Half Opponent 2nd Half Syracuse 2nd Half Opponent
Lafayette 52 30 45 33
Drexel 32 33 43 27
Colgate 43 46 42 54
VCU 27 23 28 44
Arizona St 48 30 44 54
Auburn 33 43 35 46
Indiana* 49 33 39 55
at Florida State 24 32 39 28
Villanova 29 26 24 41
Georgetown 44 34 31 45
Total 381 330 370 427
Average 38.1 33 37 42.7
* does not include overtime

The second-half struggles have been pretty prevalent throughout these ten games. While Syracuse has “only” blown three halftime leads, the trends are troubling as we prepare to head into ACC play.

In five games opponents have shot 50% or better from the floor. While the Orange were able to survive Indiana’s comeback they weren’t as lucky in the other four. The Syracuse offense has been relatively consistent in both halves so the defense is the area that stands out as needing more attention. Is it a combination of fatigue, defensive effort, and opponents finding more spots in the zone? When Jim Boeheim says “we’re not stopping people”, he’s not spouting more Heim-perbole.

Shooting percentages by half

Opponent 1st Half Syracuse 1st Half Opponent 2nd Half Syracuse 2nd Half Opponent
Opponent 1st Half Syracuse 1st Half Opponent 2nd Half Syracuse 2nd Half Opponent
Lafayette 50 36.67 59.38 32.43
Drexel 48.15 46.43 62.96 37.5
Colgate 48.39 37.84 39.39 54.55
VCU 24.24 25.93 34.48 56.67
Arizona St 53.13 40.63 55.17 48.65
Auburn 42.86 50 40.74 51.52
Indiana 58.06 35.71 41.94 74.07
at Florida State 22.86 41.94 50 28.13
Villanova 39.29 24.32 32.14 40
Georgetown 53.13 36.67 36.11 56
Average 44.011 37.614 45.231 47.952

The problem is really showing up in the final 10 minutes of the game. Add to the below table the results from Georgetown and Syracuse is now -6 on the season in the final 10 minutes of the game. For an experienced team that is likely to play in a lot of close games the rest of the season, it’s an area that has to be improved.

The Orange have a couple of weeks to fine-tune some things in an attempt to be better at closing out games. It’s not all on the defense but better shot selection, staying out of foul trouble and maybe most importantly rebounding are going to need to all improve the rest of the way.