After a 16 day COVID-19 related layoff, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team returned to action tonight beating Brown University 93-62 inside the Dome. Syracuse was scorching hot from the field and beyond the arc, shooting 35-61 from the field and 13-21 from three.
Buddy Boeheim finished as Syracuse’s leading scorer, totaling 28 points on 11-19 shooting. Three out of the four other players in Syracuse’s starting rotation scored over ten points in the win. Overall, this was some of the best basketball Syracuse played this season but didn't come without some issues worth pointing out. Here are our three takeaways from tonight’s win.
Takeaway 1: Three-point shooting looked red hot
With Syracuse and Brown both being out of action for over two weeks, nobody knew what the extended layoff would do to either team heading into tonight's match-up. However, in the opening minutes of the first half, one thing was crystal clear: Syracuse was shooting the lights out from beyond the arc. In the first five minutes of the first half, the Orange connected on 5-6 shots from three. Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard, and Cole Swider each made a three-pointer, along with Jimmy Boeheim who connected on two three-pointers. This red hot shooting could be a scary sight for any of Syracuse's future opponents because of the number of players who were getting in on this early game shooting stretch. Four out of the five Syracuse starters made a three-pointer in the opening five minutes of the half. By the time the first half was over, even after many missed free throws, Syracuse made seven out of 12 three-pointers attempted and sat with firm control of the matchup at the end of the half, leading Brown 38-32.
The second half was more of the same story: straight fire from Syracuse beyond the arc along with efficient scoring inside it. Syracuse connected on 3-3 shots from beyond the arc in the opening three minutes of the half, with two from Buddy and one from Girard. As the half continued, we saw Syracuse’s scoring shift inside the arc, connecting on 6-8 from the field as a team. Efficient shooting beyond and within the arc helped the Orange take a 23 point lead seven minutes into the second, and didn't look back for the rest of the game. The Orange beat Brown 93-62 finishing the game shooting above 55% from the field and from three. If this strong Syracuse shooting continues to occur, specifically from three, expect some exciting offense from Syracuse going forward.
Takeaway 2: Is Syracuse’s defense finally impacting games in a positive way?
Syracuse’s defense as a team before tonight’s game could be defined as spotty to put it nicely. There would be some games where the Orange’s 2-3 zone worked as expected, but for a majority of games, Syracuse’s patented defensive scheme created more negative effects than positive ones. Whether it be with players not communicating effectively with one another, players not switching effectively off screens, this team has just looked disoriented at times on the defensive side of the ball too many times this season.
However tonight, there looked to be signs of Syracuse’s defense creating a positive effect on the team's performance. In the first half, Syracuse totaled seven steals, 2 blocks, and forced 12 turnovers. Their swarm-like zone resulted in 11 fast-break points and 9 points off turnovers for the Orange. In the second half, Syracuse totaled only 2 steals and 3 blocks, while only forcing four turnovers. However, they were still able to hold Brown to 12-39 from the field in the second half. The Orange were able to capitalize on the Brown Bear’s mistakes, scoring 12 fast break points and 13 points off of turnovers in the second. Syracuse’s defense just looked effective and poised, something that made fans happy to see. If this trend continues, expect Syracuse to start gaining some momentum heading into the new year.
Takeaway 3: #Freethrowsmatter
Syracuse’s free-throw shooting tonight was a problem that Jim Boeheim and his staff hope won’t carry over into the future. On the season, Syracuse shoots 75.8% on 14.4 attempts per game this season. The Orange’s percentage from the line was good enough to earn them the 40th highest percentage amongst D-1 basketball. However tonight their ranking didn't mean a thing after opening tip-off. The Orange connected on 43.8% from the line while shooting 7-16 in the first half, a number well below their season average in terms of efficiency. Jesse Edwards shot 2-5, Jimmy Boeheim shot 3-5, and Cole Swider shot 0-2 from the line in the first half. These numbers are not what is expected from some of the team’s best players.
In the second half, Syracuse looked more like themselves, shooting 75% from the line on 3 out of four shots made. The Orange finished the game shooting 50% from the stripe, making 10 free throws on 20 attempted. This staggering free-throw percentage, while hopefully not a trend, needs to be addressed by Boeheim and his staff, regardless of the great team win tonight. This is a trend the Orange do not want to be identified with going forward, as they have one of the best three-point shooting starting line-ups in all of D-1 basketball. While this may be an overreaction and just a mere blip, free-throw shooting is one of the most undervalued ways to win a basketball game, and Syracuse needs to make sure this one-night problem doesn't turn into a trend that follows them into the future.