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Syracuse men’s basketball: one unnecessary risk led to an overly conservative response

Let’s hope it’s an area for the staff to improve

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 Syracuse at Boston College Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team suffered a disappointing loss to Boston College. It was a game the Orange let get away and I think there was a crucial decision in the first half that was a catalyst for the loss.

James touched on this in his takeaways but I think it’s worth expanding upon because it’s not the first time we’ve seen it this season. With 4:43 to go in the first half and the Orange up 28-23, Judah Mintz went for a steal in the backcourt and was whistled for his second foul. Adrian Autry pulled him from the game and with Maliq Brown already sitting with two fouls, Syracuse tried to go with JJ Starling, Kyle Cuffe, Chris Bell, Benny Williams and Mounir Hima.

After a Starling jumper made it 30-23, Syracuse was out-scored 8-0 in the next two minutes. By the time Autry went back to Mintz and Quadir Copeland, the Orange were trailing 31-30 and had gone from putting BC away to injecting some life in a team that needed a win desperately.

James mentioned Autry’s propensity for playing it cautious when players have two first half fouls, which by itself isn’t a major concern. What is a little concerning is the first half substitution pattern seems to follow a similar theme of getting all the rotation players in no matter the situation. In last night’s game, the offense had just gotten going with players driving the ball and forcing BC to help leaving open players. When Autry removed Mintz, he should have gone with Copeland on the floor to facilitate.

JJ Starling’s shooting has improved, but neither he nor Kyle Cuffe are used to facilitate. Mounir Hima’s got four points on the season. Chris Bell missed all four of his shots last night. It just wasn’t the right situation to go with a group lacking on the offensive end and really Copeland should have been in for Bell at that point.

BC started the second half with a 7-0 run before Autry went back to Copeland and Williams. I’m pretty comfortable with leaving the starting five alone at this point, but that doesn’t mean they need to start both halves every game. Copeland was very effective against BC and it would have made sense to use him right away to get back in the game.

While Syracuse did fight back to within 56-53, Autry only swapped Taylor for Williams in the final 18 minutes. After the scary fall he took in the first half, it seemed like playing Starling the final 20 was asking a lot and while Cuffe has been up and down this year, he could have provided a few minutes of fresh legs and better defense. Same with Carey who was active again last night and could have helped the Orange have more left to complete the comeback.

These are the growing pains with a first-time head coach and I know many of you are screaming for Taylor to be benched, but I think it’s less about who starts and more about who’s playing with who in key situations. This is a team that can’t keep giving away stretches of games as we’ve seen in two of the last three games.

With NCAA hopes about over, let’s see how the staff and team respond the rest of the way.