The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team edged the Florida State Seminoles 76-67 on the road Wednesday night. In what marked a continuation of Syracuse winning against the teams it should in the league, the Orange (15-10, 8-6) was able to overcome a six point halftime deficit to defeat the Seminoles (8-17, 6-8) and close out in crunch time.
The big three of Joe Girard, Jesse Edwards and Judah Mintz led the way for the Orange, combining for 60 of the team’s 76 total points. Chris Bell scored ten points and grabbed a career-high six rebounds.
Syracuse jumped out to an early lead and Florida State started 2-14 from outside until it dismantled the Orange from the heart of its zone with lobs at the rim. Then, FSU added insult to injury by making four important triples to end the half. The Orange surrendered the lead when giving up the high-post on defense as Naheem McLeod received lob after lob for open dunks. That, and Syracuse yielded to Florida State on the glass 22-14 in the first half went into the intermission trailing 35-29.
Syracuse made defensive adjustments in the second half (more on that below) and finally reclaimed the lead for good 57-56 at 9:14 mark on a Mintz and-one. Behind the play of its freshman and good free throw shooting (14-17), the Orange took care of business toward the end.
To the takeaways.
Zone pinch, rebound gap closed
The McLeod mishap in the first half seemed representative of the continued defensive lapses Syracuse has struggled with in the 2-3 zone this season. Florida State was able to enter the ball into the high-post without resistance, usually to Matthew Cleveland. When Edwards went to greet the ball, lobs to McLeod for easy dunks turned the tide back in favor of the Seminoles as the 7-foot-4 center scored 14 first half points.
In the second half Syracuse adjusted and pinched the high-post, making entry passes to Cleveland more difficult. The Orange dared the Seminoles to beat them another way, leaving the three point point line vulnerable, which ultimately led to a lot of Seminole passing around the perimeter. McLeod went the entire second half without a field goal as no lobs came his way.
Not only this, but Syracuse was able to close the rebound deficit and win the battle of the boards 39-34. Edwards snared 12 rebounds while Chris Bell grabbed the most of his career. Durable Girard ducked in there and grabbed seven important boards on top of his 26 point night while Maliq Brown had five rebounds too.
All told, a solid job of adjusting on defense by the Syracuse coaching staff and good execution by the players.
Syracuse is getting its money’s worth out of equipment manager Dan Shworles this season. Benny Williams ripped his jersey in half at Louisville earlier this season and needed a spare. At Florida State, Chris Bell got blood on his jersey and needed a replacement.
Bell went with a nameless No. 52 jersey and wore it for the entirety of the second half.
The only real discernible difference in jersey number production was Bell’s performance inside the arc. In the first half as No. 0, Bell had just 2 points on 0-4 shooting from outside with three rebounds. As No. 52 he had 8 points on 1-5 shooting from outside and 2-3 shooting from inside with three rebounds.
Either way, how many spare jerseys does Syracuse take with them on the road?
Mintz added another layer to his game as the freshman continues to grow as a player. In the last two games, albeit against struggling teams, Mintz has looked poised down the stretch and continues to make good plays for his team. Against Boston College he scored and found teammates. Against Florida State he got to the rim, drew contact and finished when Syracuse needed it.
“He must’ve gone on a run, scored ten, 12 points in a row. Same thing he did at Boston College. He’s as good as anybody at getting to the basket,” Boeheim said post-game.
Mintz has been solid for Syracuse all season scoring the ball but he’s also done a good job of reading the defense and making plays for teammates. With just two points on the night with 13 minutes remaining in the second half, Mintz turned it on late after his head coach told him to attack Florida State in transition.
“I saw they weren’t really getting back to well, they were back-peddling a lot,” Mintz said. “I think I’m fast enough and athletic enough to be able to finish at the rim when a team’s on their heels like that.”