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Florida State 76, Syracuse 71: Orange comeback cut short

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Choosing to forget how to guard the three-point line is not a great strategy.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 30 Indiana at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange cut the lead to one with 30 seconds left, but couldn’t finish as Florida State held on for a 76-71 win. The Orange drop to under .500 once again with an 8-9 record.

Before the game, Syracuse caught a break with Florida State’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Malik Osborne being ruled out for the game. He was seen with a walking boot during pre-game warmups. The Seminoles countered with Naheem McLeod starting in his place, giving FSU two players standing over seven feet in their starting lineup.

Early on, Syracuse found success in a rare way - off the dribble. Florida State defenders didn’t have the quickness to keep up with Syracuse’s players once they penetrated inside the arc. That opened up outside opportunities for Buddy Boeheim and dump off scores for Jesse Edwards.

Florida State adjusted quickly and went away from its surplus of seven-footers to a small lineup. Not only did that help the Seminoles shut down some of Syracuse’s dribble-drives, FSU also got the opportunity to shoot over Syracuse, which they failed to do last time these two teams played. The Orange didn’t adjust quickly enough and left shooters open on the perimeter.

Luckily, the Orange kept up with the shooting as well. Joe Girard was the big benefactor, as he realized he could dribble by most of the FSU defense. He finished with 11 first-half points as both teams shot over 50% from the floor in the initial 20 minutes. Syracuse led by one at the break.

Florida State came out roaring in the second half. The Seminoles found the range and nailed three-pointers and baseline cuts to take the lead. Meanwhile, the Orange went cold from three and went away from the sets that gave them offensive success in the first half.

Then Syracuse switched to a three-guard lineup and started on a run. The Orange found some defensive momentum and turned it into offense with threes starting to rain from Cole Swider and the younger Boeheim bother. What also helped was Florida State didn’t attempt a three for a long stretch of the second half. That helped Syracuse go on a 12-2 run to momentarily take the lead again.

Speaking of Swider, he finally had the breakout game that Syracuse fans have been waiting for him to have. His three-pointers were exactly what the Orange needed to kickstart the offense. Swider finished with 17 points on 5-10 shooting and 4-7 from three.

His strong play came at the expense of Benny Williams, who oddly did not play. The bench player of the game was Symir Torrence, who found some good minutes with Coach Boeheim using the three-guard lineup.

Florida State went back in front with three-point shooting. Caleb Mills was on fire from beyond the arc with Wyatt Wilkes also hitting from distance. Florida State ended the game 12-20 from three, a drastic shift from the meeting between these two teams in December when the Seminoles went 4-30 from three.

The sequence at the end of the game was wild, but Jimmy Boeheim couldn’t convert at the rim and Syracuse couldn’t foul to stop the clock. With that, the Orange lost another heartbreaking ACC game.