Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The press helps Syracuse make a 20-point comeback.
The Syracuse Orange looked to be a step behind the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday. However, the Orange resorted to an old and faithful strategy to spark momentum: the full-court press. Consistent turnovers and a red-hot Buddy Boeheim led Syracuse to a huge 75-67 win to keep the Orange in the NCAA tournament bubble conversation.
Here’s our takeaways from a wild and crazy game.
Shades of Easter Sunday
In a way, this game was very reminiscent of a certain March 27, 2016 game.
The lore of Syracuse’s press was etched into history because of its effectiveness against Virginia in the Elite Eight that year. The reason why that pressed worked is that it forced the Cavaliers into turnovers or fast shots with low efficiency. That increased paced allow the Orange that day to set up the offensive looks they wanted at an unsettled rate while at the same time preventing Virginia from setting up and taking their time to look for the right shot.
Almost the exact same situation happened once again. Notre Dame’s half court offense was lethal in the first half with shots raining down with success. Once Syracuse settled into the press, the Fighting Irish got lazy with the ball, committing eight second-half turnovers. Notre Dame’s transition buckets stopped falling as well as the Fighting Irish started to get too eager to score. That allowed Buddy Boeheim and Marek Dolezaj to pick apart Notre Dame in unsettled situations on offense to complete the comeback. A career-high 29 points from Boeheim led the Orange charge.
It’s incredible how the situations were almost an exact mirror. Syracuse just got the comeback completed quicker today than in 2016.
Finding the right lineup
What made the Syracuse press successful today as well was Jim Boeheim finding the right lineup to execute the defensive strategy. Kadary Richmond and Robert Braswell entered the lineup for Joe Girard and Alan Griffin respectively. Its hard to understate how important both substitutions were to the effectiveness of the press.
Richmond picked up three steals and Braswell grabbed five rebounds, but their defensive anticipation and awareness allowed the Orange to rattle the Fighting Irish offensively. Bringing those two in allowed Syracuse to flex how scary the Orange defense can be when the right players are on the court.
Give the ball to the right guys
The substitutions also forced the Orange to look at different guys to shoot the ball. Griffin and Girard attempt the most and fourth-most field goals respectively for Syracuse this season. A lot of frustration for Syracuse fans offensively can be attributed to how little Dolezaj and Guerrier shoot the ball at times.
Even though he had a rough game offensively against Juwan Durham, Guerrier attempted 11 field goals while Doelzaj attempted 10. That was the second and third most field goals attempted for Syracuse against Notre Dame, with Boeheim leading the charge at 19 attempted field goals. The Orange frontcourt has been the most efficient unit for Syracuse this year, and getting those guys more opportunities to score is never a bad idea.