It was another road dud for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team, this time in a 99-70 loss to Wake Forest. The Orange never led and put together one of their worst shooting performances of the season. SU dropped to 14-8 overall and is back below .500 in conference play (5-6).
Let’s keep the takeaways short and sweet for a very forgettable game.
Another sluggish start
Too often this season, Syracuse has opened the game on the wrong foot, especially on the road. After going scoreless for over four minutes against Boston College, the Orange didn’t look much better tonight, starting 3/14 from the field. Eleven of those were jump shots, many of them one-and-done’s.
Wake is one of the taller teams SU will play, but having no presence inside put way too much pressure on the shooters. Chris Bell missed his first four jumpers, and after five straight empty offensive possessions, the Orange found themselves down by six.
Syracuse was also nowhere to be found on the glass early on. Maliq Brown was the only active threat with five first-half rebounds, but other than that, the Demon Deacons dominated. Wake out-rebounded SU by 10 through the first 20 minutes, led by guard Cameron Hildreth with eight.
It was going to be an uphill battle regardless, but coming out completely flat dashed all hopes of Syracuse pulling off an upset.
The Orange (40%) and Demon Deacons (66%) were on different planets when it came to shooting percentage. Judah Mintz did his part going 5/9, but had little help from the rest of the Orange. With no big man present, Syracuse did way too much standing around on the perimeter, often ending in an ill-advised, contested shot. For a team that doesn’t shoot great from three-point range, I don’t think taking 27 attempts from distance was in Adrian Autry’s game plan. The Orange only made seven of them, well below their season average of 32.1%.
On the other hand, Wake thrived from three-point range (63%) by working the ball quickly inside to collapse the Syracuse defense, then kicking out for wide-open jump shots. Other times, the Demon Deacons drilled heavily contested shots from well outside the arc. Hunter Sallis led the charge for the home team with 24 points on 7/9 shooting while Damari Monsanto and Parker Friedrichsen each chipped in two more triples off the bench.
Justin Taylor breaks the ice
If there’s anything positive to take away from this game, it’s that the sophomore broke out of his shooting slump. Taylor knocked down two threes and finished with 10 points, which he hadn’t done since Dec. 21.
Despite missing his first five shots, Taylor kept chucking with no one else stepping up. He gave the Orange a mini-spark with eight points to start the second half, but it quickly fizzled following a furious Demon Deacons’ run.
8 points in the first 4 minutes of the second half by JT pic.twitter.com/HB054KhrSF— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) February 4, 2024
Outside shooting has been a real problem for this team besides Bell. J.J. Starling’s improvements have helped a little, but getting Taylor going can only help down the stretch.