The Syracuse Orange went 1-1 last week with a resounding win against the Providence Friars on Wednesday. The Orange led at halftime by a score of 43-16, and for all intents and purposes, that was the ball game.
Though the Orange more than survived what had “trap game” written all over it against Providence, the much bigger game and opponent came Saturday against arch rival Georgetown.
Not only was first place on the line, but Syracuse retired Carmelo Anthony’s jersey during a halftime ceremony.
Thanks to a dominant performance by Otto Porter Jr. (33 of the Hoyas’ 57 points) and a suffocating 2-3 zone defense that stymied the Orange, Georgetown bested their long-time conference foe.
Syracuse (22-5, 10-4 Big East) enters a crucial week in conference play that will likely determine if they have a shot at the league title.
Let’s take a look back at the week that was.
James Southerland from three-point land: In the first three games after he was reinstated, Southerland knocked down 10-of-25 from beyond the arc.
In the two contests last week, the senior made 6-of-12 from three. Since he has returned to Syracuse’s rotation, the sharp-shooter is making threes at a 43 percent clip.
The Orange will need his continued long-range assault in the coming weeks.
C.J. Fair: Despite the loss to the Hoyas, Fair led the Orange with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds.
In the win over the Friars, he recorded another double-double (20 points, 10 boards) including 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.
Or in this case, "What’s Not?"
The answer to that is Syracuse’s offense against a zone defense.
In the loss to Georgetown, the turning point came when John Thompson III decided to give the Orange some of their own medicine. That is, see how Syracuse handles playing against a 2-3 zone.
Syracuse looked like they were seeing the defense that is their calling card for the first time.
Like so many of the teams they have befuddled with that very zone, the resorted to launching threes. That’s fine—but making some of them is desirable. A 4-of-20 mark from beyond the arc just doesn't cut the mustard.
The Orange's inability to dissect the very zone that is their staple defense was stunning.
The Battle for the Big East
After Saturday’s action, the race for the conference championship is extremely tight.
The Hoyas sit on top of the Big East at 11-3 and hold a one game lead over Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette.
As luck (aka the Big East schedule makers) would have it, Syracuse is on the road Monday against Marquette and home versus Louisville on Saturday. Then, of course, there is that little matter of the Orange’s final regular season game—a trip to Georgetown.
Whether they ride off into the sunset with one last Big East championship or not, Syracuse will certainly have a say in the outcome.
With a road game against Marquette on Monday in their only regular season meeting and a rematch against Louisville at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, the stakes don’t get much higher for Syracuse this week.
Win both of those games and the Big East regular season championship will likely come down to the last game of the season when Syracuse plays at Georgetown. Would it get any better than that?