Syracuse Basketball: Undefeated No More, Orange Need to Pick Up Offense

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Syracuse Basketball: Undefeated No More, Orange Need to Pick Up Offense
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Syracuse is undefeated no more.

After a pair of near upsets in the past week against Pittsburgh and North Carolina State, fate finally caught up with No. 1 Syracuse in the form of old Big East foe Boston College.

Against Pittsburgh, Syracuse (25-1, 12-1 ACC) escaped defeat with a Tyler Ennis three-pointer as time expired. Against NC State, the Orange turned a late turnover into a C.J. Fair layup in the closing seconds to shirk embarrassment.

On Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome, Boston College (7-19, 3-10) drew a line in the sand.

In the second meeting between the schools in a little over a month, Boston College took advantage of Syracuse’s worst shooting night of the season (.323 from the field) by knocking down 50 percent of its three-pointers (11-22).

The 62-59 overtime win not only broke the Orange’s undefeated streak, but it also ended their streak of home wins versus unranked opponents at 46.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Boston College took advantage of poor defensive positioning on Wednesday night.

In contrast, Boston College came into Syracuse having lost 21 of its last 22 games versus opponents ranked in the top five. That one win, however, was in 2009 against No. 1 North Carolina on the road.

In the first matchup of the season, the Eagles held a six-point lead with just under 12 minutes left in the second half, 50-44, but Syracuse tightened up on defense and would only allow one field goal the rest of the game to come away with a 69-59 victory.

On Wednesday night, roles reversed.

Throughout the season, it has been Tyler Ennis who’s been unflappable in the closing minutes of the Orange’s games, but on Wednesday, Ennis was a bit haphazard with the ball. The box score will show just two turnovers for the freshman phenom, but his turnover with just under four minutes left in regulation proved costly.

With the game locked at 46-46, Ennis’ errant pass to the block was intercepted by Patrick Heckmann, who turned the steal into a layup to put the Eagles up by two. This time, it was Boston College that stayed cool under pressure.

For the rest of regulation, missed free throws and poor finishing around the net doomed the Orange to overtime, where their inability to stop three-point shots, hit free throws and take advantage of defensive mismatches allowed Boston College to shock the Orange on their home court.

The Orange’s offensive woes were bound to catch up with them.

Since Jan. 7, Syracuse has only broken the 70-point barrier once, which was the 91-89 overtime win against Duke in Syracuse.

That game was also the only time this calendar year that an opponent managed more than 59 points against Syracuse, which has helped their anemic offense immensely.

That was until BC’s 62 points on Wednesday.

Syracuse has only five regular-season games left. It is certainly a defense-first team, but with a trip to No. 5 Duke looming on Saturday and four of its last five games on the road, the Orange offense needs to wake up and stop playing to the level of their opponents.

Too many times in the closing minutes, the Orange had great position underneath or good angles at the basket but consistently failed to finish around the rim. Play like that will spell disaster on Saturday.

Syracuse has shown the ability to close games all season, but now that it has finally lost a game, the pressure of an undefeated season is gone, if there was any.

This is still an excellent team, and a win at Cameron Indoor against Duke will erase the memory of the BC game going forward.

A loss, especially one where the offense’s struggles continue, could be a bad sign for the Orange going into the postseason.

 

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