The Syracuse Orange (7-8, 1-3) men’s basketball team will look to get back in the win column when they welcome the Pittsburgh Panthers (6-9, 1-3) on Tuesday night. This is a game that the Orange have to get and here’s what we’ll be looking for when these teams meet:
Kevin: Finishing the first half
Syracuse has made a habit of struggling to end the first half. Last week the Orange let Miami cut their lead from 20 to 14 before the break and watched as the Hurricanes roared back quickly. Then at Wake Forest Syracuse let a 34-28 lead at the final media time-out turn into a 38-36 halftime deficit. When you play close games you can’t have these lapses and allow opponents to gain confidence going into the locker room. Can Syracuse keep their foot on the gas for a full 40 minutes against an inferior opponent?
Zeke: A different defensive approach for Jesse Edwards
Jesse Edwards has been one of the biggest bright spots for Syracuse during an underwhelming season so far. The Junior forward averages 11 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1 steal, and 3.1 blocks per game while shooting 71.4% from the field over 15 games played this season. Out of those 15 games played, Edwards has fouled out of eight of them and Saturday’s game marked his fourth consecutive game in a row he fouled out of. He averages 3.7 personal fouls a game, and his inability to stay in games has been hurting the overall success of the Orange so far this season. Edwards acknowledged this thought after Saturday afternoon’s loss to Wake Forest about how his inability to finish games has hurt the team and that something has to change on his end going forward to reduce the amount of personal fouls he tallies up during the post-game press conference. Expect to see a new defensive approach from Edwards, as he knows he needs to be more patient on defense rather than being overly ambitious for this Syracuse team to reach their highest potential.
Szuba: Foul count
The foul disparity played a big role in Syracuse’s loss to Wake Forest on Saturday as the Orange were whistled for 21 fouls to Wake’s 11. Pittsburgh gets to the free throw line with great frequency as the No. 1 team in the country in free throws attempted per field goals attempted (46.9%). In other words, Pittsburgh takes nearly one free throw per every two field goal attempts. Will Pittsburgh be able to draw fouls against a zone as well as it does against man-to-man or can Syracuse limit fouls, particularly from the center position?
Christian: Pack it in
Pitt is dead last in the ACC in three-point field goals made. We’re all too familiar with Syracuse’s tendency to not defend the perimeter. The Orange need to do the thing they’ve failed to do for the past couple of years - prevent the ball from getting inside. As James and Zeke pointed out, fouls are going to be a big part of this game. Syracuse needs Jesse Edwards in the game to stop Pitt’s interior scorers.