Despite missed opportunities, Syracuse offense pivots well in loss to No. 9 Duke

first_imgThe largest home-crowd in a Division I basketball game this season buzzed. Joe Girard III dribbled upcourt and Syracuse fans rose to their feet. An upset still seemed in reach, so Girard called for a high screen and found space after dribbling to his left. It’s a shot that Girard has taken, and made with some regularity, countless times this season. But that didn’t make it a good look. The ball finished its parabola, missing the rim and backboard on the way. As Girard spun around, already patting his own chest — ”My bad” — Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was already a few feet on the court. “We missed some shots we usually make,” Girard said after SU’s 97-88 loss to Duke. “… When we’re on and we’re making 3s and making the shots we usually make, we can beat anybody in the country.”The 3-pointer, one of 26 attempts and 20 misses, didn’t sink Syracuse (13-9, 6-5 Atlantic Coast). It still scored 88 points, its fourth-most this season, against a top-10 offense. It forced 19 turnovers, six more than the No. 9 Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2) commit per game. It scored 38 points in the paint and earned 37 trips the free-throw line. The Orange pivoted and did well. But the margins – the lackluster 3-point shooting, double-digit giveaways, nine missed free throws — cost them. The lapses unofficially marked the differences between a marquee-win to pair with the Virginia upset and another “what if?” After weeks of road conference wins earning goodwill, questions have risen concerning SU’s offense. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We’re not shooting the ball good,” Boeheim said.  “…(Teams) are gonna make it hard for us. That’s why he has to drive and get to the lane. … I thought we did a lot of good things offensively, but it’s not enough.” Postgame, Elijah Hughes said the Orange took what the Blue Devils gave them. Early on, it was mostly inside. Matched with Cassius Stanley, Hughes took advantage of a Duke frontcourt packed near the rim and spun free in the paint for an open mid-range.Hughes had six early points and Syracuse managed enough offensive separation. Marek Dolezaj (22 points on 8-of-14) dodged through the interior, placing in a few off the glass. Freshman Quincy Guerrier continued his progress inside with seven points and seven rebounds. But it was an incomplete picture. Joe Girard III had just one of 10 Syracuse turnovers against the Blue Devils, but on several occasions missed shots he usually made. Corey Henry | Photo EditorDuke clogged the lanes usually reserved for Buddy Boeheim and Girard. The pair forced shots, going a combined five-for-17 from deep while Hughes went one-for-nine. Duke turned SU’s trio-led offense into one rooted by the forwards. Syracuse handled the adjustment well, though most possessions ended with the ball in star Duke freshman Vernon Carey’s hands pulling down a rebound instead of Orange’s playmaking guards converting a jumper. “(Girard and Buddy) are having tremendous years, but they’re learning the game,” Boeheim said. Eventually, the mistakes piled onto one another, burying Syracuse when there wouldn’t be any 3s to dig it out. Buddy had an inbound pass tipped and turned over. Girard dribbled off his foot and out of bounds. Three of SU’s 10 turnovers were committed by Girard and Buddy. With limited 3s and free-throw trips stopping and starting momentum, the game operated in the half-court. Guerrier had a few offensive put-backs and Girard unlocked an opening in Duke’s defense with Carey on the bench, once responsible for four-straight points. Yet Carey eventually checked back in and Duke started to find space on its own 3-point arc. A 21-11 second-quarter run spun the margin in Duke’s favor. Girard stepped up for two free throws following a Carey technical foul and split the pair, looking off to the side after the first miss. SU’s nine missed shots from the charity stripe were its fourth-most this season while Duke missed just four. An ensuing broken play saw a rebound bounce to Alex O’Connell, who sunk and cashed a 3 from the wing without taking a step. Each swing leaving SU scrambling after costlier mistakes. Syracuse broke Duke’s press in the final minutes but coughed it away underneath the basket. When a Duke turnover in the waning minutes gave Hughes the ball with a chance to make it a one-possession game, Hughes again attacked space to his left, waited and rose for a 3-pointer. The crowd rose again and fell flatly as the ball tracked into Carey’s arms. “We gotta be able to hit some more 3s to win a game like that against Duke,” Buddy said. “That’s what it came down to. But overall, I thought our offense was really solid in getting to the rim.” Comments Published on February 2, 2020 at 1:17 am Contact Nick: [email protected] | @nick_a_alvarez Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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