The Syracuse Orange looked for a way past the Houston Cougars in the Sweet 16. However, Houston shut down the Orange with stellar defense as Syracuse couldn’t generate any offensive rhythm. The Cougars did just enough on offense to send the Orange home with a 62-46 loss. Syracuse shot 28% from the floor and 21.7% from three.
Here’s our three takeaways from the season-ending defeat:
Stuck like glue
Houston came in with a simple game plan: stick DeJon Jarreau on Buddy Boeheim and let him go to work. That plan paid off for the Cougars as Jarreau played tight defense all game long to deny any free looks for Boeheim. Syracuse’s sharpshooter couldn’t generate any offensive momentum to kickstart the Orange scoring.
Even as Syracuse tried to set some screens for Boeheim, Jarreau did well to shed off the screen to stay with Boeheim and not give him a free shot. Syracuse’s offense turned into a live-and-die system through the guard’s performances. Houston correctly identified that and made sure that Boeheim always took a contested shot.
Not a new concept
Syracuse has faced Houston’s type of tight man defense before. Virginia and Clemson face-guard players throughout the entire game and the Cougars did the exact same against the Orange. SU did some things well in those past games to generate offense against those stellar defense, but failed to execute those ideas against Houston.
For one, the Orange didn’t attack the rim nearly enough. Drives from Kadary Richmond and Boeheim should have been more utilized to directly attack the Houston frontcourt. Instead, Syracuse settled for jumpers. The Orange also broke down man defenses with excellent passing in the past. Five assists on 14 made field goals isn’t going to cut it. The ball got stuck with no movement via a pass or dribble for too long on offense.
Promise for the future
Syracuse’s 2020-21 season might be over, but there’s reason to be excited for the future. Jesse Edwards changed the game defensively for the Orange as his length disrupted Houston’s offensive momentum throughout the entire game. He was one of the big reasons why the rebound margin was initially close and why the Cougars couldn’t pull away early from the Orange. If Edwards develops more offensively, he could turn into a stellar player for Syracuse.
Richmond has always proved that he should get more playing time, and he did so once again for Syracuse. His drives to the rim and passing kickstarted SU’s run in the first half. His length causes problems on defense as it’s hard to shoot over him and get a pass by him as well. As long as Richmond cuts down on his turnovers, he becomes critical to SU’s success in the future. It’ll be disappointing if his minutes don’t significantly next season.