The State of the Syracuse Orange
The Syracuse Orange are just over halfway through the ACC portion of the schedule and hold a 16-7 overall mark and a 7-3 record in conference play. There is still a long way to go in the regular season, but as of right now Syracuse is sitting on the right side of the bubble—a feat that seemed unlikely following four losses in the non-conference season. Let’s take a look at the last few games and the road ahead in the ACC.
The Orange entered their contest with Miami on a two game win streak having beaten then #1 Duke on the road and former Big East rival Pittsburgh at home. The Hurricanes kept it close in the first half and Syracuse entered the locker room with a 32-29 lead. Clinging to a three point lead, 42-39, with 15:09 remaining, the Orange set off on a 19-5 run to take control for good. Syracuse pulled away to a 73-53 win at home.
The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone baffled Miami. The Hurricanes shot just 33.9-percent and turned the ball over 13 times. On the other hand, Syracuse shot it at a 49.1-percent clip, including 46.7-percent from beyond the arc.
DJ Vasiljevic led Miami with 11 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.
Elijah Hughes paced the Orange with 22 points, on 8-of-13 shooting, three rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. Buddy Boeheim chipped in with 12 points and three boards off the bench, while Tyus Battle added 10 points, six rebounds, and nine assists.
Syracuse put their three game win streak on the line when they traveled to Blacksburg to take on the 10th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. Virginia Tech raced out to a 43-24 halftime advantage. The Orange climbed to within eight, 43-35, on a free throw by Battle. Syracuse would get no closer the rest of the way and the Hokies would go on to win by a margin of 78-56.
Virginia Tech was shot over the zone by shooting 52.1-percent from the field and 46.7-percent from three-point land. The Hokies held the Orange to 36.4-percent from the floor.
Justin Robinson led Virginia Tech with 35 points, on 9-of-13 shooting from deep, three rebounds, and eight assists. Ahmed Hill scored 16 points, on 6-of-10 from the field, and six boards in the victory.
Oshae Brissett led the way for Syracuse as the sophomore forward tallied 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Frank Howard and Battle poured in 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The Orange looked to rebound from their loss at the Hokies with a win over the Boston College Eagles—Syracuse’s second game of a three game road trip. Trailing 15-6, the Orange used a 14-0 spurt to take a 20-15 lead with 9:48 left in the opening stanza on a jumper by Howard. Syracuse took a 42-35 lead into intermission. Boston College got within six on a layup by Ky Bowman with 2:04 to play. That was the closest the Eagles would get as the Orange hung on for a 77-71 victory.
Syracuse shot 55.8-percent from the floor and drilled 11 triples to come away with the win.
Bowman and Jordan Chatman scored 21 points each to pace Boston College. Bowman also dished out four assists. Jared Hamilton added 12 points, while Nik Popovich finished with 11 points and six rebounds for the Eagles.
Battle poured in 31 points, on 11-of-17 from the floor, collected four rebounds, and distributed six assists in the win. Boeheim came up with another solid performance off the bench with a career-high 13 points and three boards. Hughes knocked in 10 points and pulled down four rebounds to help earn the Orange earn the hard fought road win.
Syracuse squared off with Pittsburgh for the second time this season in hopes of completing their three game road trip with a record of 2-1. The Orange took as much as a 16-point lead in the first twenty minutes and a 13-point lead, 35-22, into the half. The Panthers cut Syracuse’s lead to five, 46-41, when Jared Wilson-Frame nailed a three-pointer with 10:09 to go. The Orange responded with a 9-0 run to take a 55-41 advantage that they would not relinquish. Syracuse went on to win 65-56.
Syracuse’s defense stymied Pittsburgh’s attack. The Orange held the Panthers to 31.6-percent shooting, while Syracuse shot it at a 41.5-percent clip.
Terrell Brown led Pittsburgh with 16 points, on 8-of-13 from the field, and six rebounds. Xavier Johnson scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out 6 assists, while Wilson-Frame tallied 12 points and came down with 10 rebounds.
Brissett posted a double-double with 18 points, on 6-of-9 from the floor, and 12 rebounds. Howard dropped in 15 points and pulled down three boards. Paschal Chukwu finished with 10 points and eight rebounds to help the Orange to victory.
Florida State made a trip to the Carrier Dome Thursday night as Syracuse eyed another three game win streak and their second win over a ranked conference opponent. The 22nd ranked Seminoles raced out to a 36-14 lead. The Orange used a 17-3 spurt to end the first half to pull with eight, 39-31, at the break. Syracuse cut Florida State’s lead to one, 46-45, but failed to get over the hump and take the lead. The Seminoles pulled away over the final nine minutes of the contest to earn an 80-62 win at the Dome.
Having fallen behind by 22 points so early in the game, the Orange pressed throughout, but were noticeably gassed down the stretch. Florida State shot a blistering 54.5-percent from the field, including 50-percent from distance. Syracuse’s comeback was stopped short mainly due to their inefficient from behind the three point line where the Orange connected on just 5-of-20 of their attempts.
Terance Mann stuffed the stat sheet for the Seminoles with 22 points, nine, rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Mfiondu Kabengele scored 18 points, pulled down eight rebounds, and blocked two shots off the bench. Phil Cofer and MJ Walker tallied 11 points each. Cofer ripped down three boards and distributed three assists as well.
Battle paced Syracuse with 23 points on 8-of-15 from the floor. Hughes added 17 points. Brissett posted his second consecutive double-double with 16 points and 12 boards.
Syracuse is quite the team when it gets contributions throughout the rotation, but in their most recent losses, Howard and Chukwu have been non-existent. For example, Howard and Chukwu played major roles in wins at Duke and Pittsburgh, but combined for zero points in the blowout loss at home to Florida State. Battle and Hughes have played well, but the Orange will certainly need their seniors to step up down the stretch in ACC play if they plan on being on the right side of the bubble and making another deep run in the “Big Dance.”
Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett
With the key role the Elijah Hughes has played in support of Tyus Battle in the 2018-19 campaign, Brissett has seen his numbers take a hit from his freshman to his sophomore season. Make no mistake, Brissett is still a key cog in the Orange machine. The Canadian product is averaging 13.7 points, on 40.5 shooting, and 7.8 rebounds per game this season and has recorded double-doubles in his last two games. He may need to continue to play like that if Howard and Chukwu are unable to produce down the stretch for Syracuse to have a chance a making a deep postseason run.
Up Next: Boston College and the Road Ahead
The Orange will host Boston College in the second meeting between the two schools this season. Tip-off inside the Carrier Dome is set for 2pm. The Eagles are 11-10 overall, 2-7 in league play and are coming off an 80-55 loss at Duke Tuesday night. Ky Bowman is one of the best players in the conference and has had stellar performances against Syracuse in the past. Bowman leads Boston College scoring 20.3 points, grabbing 7.8 rebounds, and dishing out 3.7 assists per contest.
After hosting Boston College, the Orange will play four of their last seven games against ranked opponents (home against Louisville, Duke, Virginia, and at North Carolina), while also traveling to North Carolina State, Wake Forest, and Clemson. Syracuse has positioned themselves well in the ACC standings as of right now, but there are tests still left to pass if the Orange prefer not having to sweat it out on Selection Sunday yet again.