So far, the Syracuse Orange 2021-22 NCAA basketball season hasn't gone the way Jim Boeheim and his players had hoped for and today’s 77-74 overtime loss to Wake Forest certainly couldn't have helped. This game was a back and forth battle until the very end, with many close calls that if they were called the other way, could have changed the outcome of the game. With Syracuse's losing streak now extending to three consecutive games, there are many areas for improvement. Here are our three takeaways after today's 77-74 loss:
Takeaway 1: Making The Right Second-Half Adjustments
Headed into Saturday afternoon's game against Syracuse, Wake Forest has shot 33% from beyond the arch as a team on 368 shot attempts through 15 games. Against Syracuse today, the Demon Deacon’s shot 40% from beyond the arch shooting 8-20 from distance. For Syracuse to allow Wake Forest, a team that all season has shot poorly from beyond the arch to shoot the way they did in the first half today is unacceptable at this point in the season.
While Syracuse did lead for the entire first half until there were less than 90 seconds left of play, their poor job contesting the three wasn't making a difference in the first half regarding their ability to stay competitive in this game. However, during this entire season, one of the main issues this Syracuse team has seen this season is their inability to make necessary second-half adjustments. Considering the current two-game losing streak along with having the worst start to a season since the beginning of the Jim Boeheim coaching era in 1976, Syracuse is in a more vulnerable place than ever as a team and opponents are coming at them hard.
In the second half, Syracuse made the right adjustments and was able to hold wake forest to 3-16 shooting from beyond the arch, closing out and creating pressure for the Demon Deacon’s shooters. Any type of effective second-half adjustment has been a rare site for fans this season. Regardless of this afternoon's overtime loss, if Syracuse can continue to make effective second-half adjustments, they will start winning more of these games that come down to the wire.
Takeaway 2: Have To Mitigate Second Chance Scoring Opportunities
Syracuse in the first half of this contest was rebounding the ball extremely well considering their season-long struggles in this area. The Orange snagged 12 defensive rebounds and seven offensive rebounds compared to the Demon Deacon’s 13 defensive rebounds and four offensive rebounds. Even though the Orange outrebounded Wake Forest in the first half, the Demon Deacons had more second-chance points than the Syracuse on fewer total rebounds grabbed. Wake Forest had eight second-chance points while the Orangemen had only four in the first half.
In the second half, both teams had five second-chance points, but considering how close of a game this ended up being, those early second-chance scoring opportunities made a significant difference in the outcome of this game for Wake Forest. The most significant second chance shot of the game for the Demon Deacons was the and-one put-back layup from Alondes Williams following a Jimmy Boeheim three-pointer late in the second half. After three consecutive losses, Syracuse needs to focus on their players boxing out and grabbing offensive rebounds to create effective second-chance scoring opportunities, which could be the difference between a Syracuse win or a Syracuse loss.
Takeaway 3: Jesse Edwards Foul Trouble
The start of the second half looked so promising for the Orange. They went on an 11-3 scoring run to crack the first five minutes of the half and were playing some great overall team basketball. But the X-factor in the Orange taking over for those few minutes was starting center Jesse Edwards. Edwards during this stretch had back-to-back points in the paint, one of those off a steal he initiated. While the Netherlands-based big man has been the Orange’s breakout player of the year by far, but has fouled out in over half of the Orang’s games this season including this afternoons.
When Edwards is on the floor, he is the anchor of the team’s defense through his length and improved shot-blocking ability, leading the entire ACC in total blocks and blocks per game. When Edwards fouled out this afternoon, the score of the contest was 54-53 Syracuse with about 9 minutes left in the contest. While Syracuse was able to hang in there for the last minutes of the game and produce a W, it is hard not to think that they wouldn’t be in this position if Edwards was able to take the floor with his teammates. While the big man has been a valuable piece for the Orange all season, he needs to play with more patience on the defensive side of the floor to avoid fouling out of future contests.
At this point in the season, every game matters. If Syracuse wants to live up to the high pre-season expectations had for this season, Edwards needs to adjust his approach to contesting shots in order to keep his own personal foul count low enough to be an impactful player for an entire game.