The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team took an early double-digit lead against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the round of 32. However, some critical halftime adjustments allowed WVU to retake the lead at times in the second half. Jim Boeheim countered with adjustments of his own and the game went to the wire. Syracuse prevailed to survive and advance, 75-72 the final score.
Here’s our three takeaways from a nail-biting win:
West Virginia tried to break the zone by passing through it. The Mountaineers looked to get the ball inside to force Syracuse to over-rotate and open up the perimeter. What happened was that WVU often missed their targets. A few wayward passes contributed to 11 first half turnovers for West Virginia. Whenever the Mountaineers got the ball into the paint, the Orange swarmed the ball carrier to force turnovers as well.
WVU’s game plan to break the zone didn’t work in the first half, and Syracuse capitalized on the slow start to take a double digit lead. It’s clear that the 2-3 zone helps the Orange settle into the game and confuse opponents, especially when they don’t have time to prepare. Syracuse got all the confidence it needed on both sides of the ball to get the early lead it needed.
Someone else run the point
Kadary Richmond didn’t feature in the second half of the game until there was 8:21 left on the clock. The Orange offense stalled in the start of the second half when Joe Girard was the primary ball-handler and point guard. West Virginia recognized that Girard was struggling handling the ball and double teamed him to make him uncomfortable. As a result, the ball stayed on the perimeter and the flow that was generated in the first half was stagnant.
Once Richmond came back into the game, Syracuse put the ball in his hands and Marek Dolezaj’s hands to run the point guard position and the offense unlocked once again. Even though West Virginia made a comeback, the switch to Dolezaj and Richmond handling the ball allowed the Orange offense to keep up and eventually retake the lead.
A near disaster
Syracuse avoided two near disasters that almost cost it the game. Dolezaj picked up his fourth foul with 14:56 in the second half, and Jesse Edwards picked up four fouls as well early in the half. That meant Dolezaj had to play the better part of 12 minutes with four fouls, and the Orange got away with WVU not attacking him heavily to force a fifth. Without Dolezaj on the floor, the Orange offense wouldn’t get the restart it needed to keep up with the Mountaineers.
The second near disaster was the inbound plays at the end of the game. It’s not a position that Syracuse finds itself in often, and it showed. The ball got trapped on the sideline way too frequently and Dolezaj couldn’t find an open guy to get the ball too. Syracuse nearly threw away the game multiple times by inbounding the ball in awful positions.