After matching the best start in school history, the Syracuse men’s basketball team finds itself coming home to face Duke on Saturday, Feb. 1. The switch to the ACC from the Big East has been an unblemished one for Syracuse, but the Orange are finding that the ACC is just as unfriendly as the Big East.
No. 2 Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 ACC) left Wake Forest (14-7, 4-4) with its first loss at home, 67-57, but the 10-point victory is not indicative of the closeness of the game.
The Demon Deacons pulled to within five points of the Orange with 4:10 left in regulation, but as per usual, the Syracuse defense clamped down and allowed only three field goals the rest of the game.
Excluding Pitt, which always plays physical, the ACC experience has mostly been teams trying to shoot over the Syracuse zone, which has allowed the Orange to stay out of foul trouble. In the spirit of an old-fashioned fist fight with Marquette, Wake Forest was physical, drove to the rim and succeeded in getting the Orange into foul trouble early.
After only six minutes, Rakeem Christmas, who was playing well, got called for his second foul. At the 8:38 mark, Trevor Cooney was whistled for his third foul. Adding to the misery of Syracuse was Baye Keita getting called for a silly third foul with only 1:38 left in the first half.
With DaJuan Coleman out for the rest of the season because of a knee surgery, the Orange bench has become a much bigger commodity. Keita was the second big man off the bench, with Jerami Grant being the first, but Grant has been thrust into the starting role, and Keita is the only safety valve the Orange have in terms of big men.
Perhaps the ACC is learning a bit more about how to play Syracuse, with this game against Wake Forest being a blueprint of the Orange’s weaknesses.
With the Duke game upon the Carrier Dome, we take a look back at ACC play for the Orange so far and what lessons can be learned as they enter the second trimester of the ACC schedule.