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Saturday, Mar 25, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Ben Williams Posts Career-Low and gets Pulled as Syracuse Defeats Duke 12-11 in Overtime


By Nick Petraccione SYRACUSE, N.Y. — When a game is on the line, a team won’t normally bench one of their best player, but Syracuse didn’t have much of a choice.

Faceoff specialist Ben Williams was having the worst day of his career. He was 4-17 from the X, and in the fourth quarter, with the score 8-7 in favor of Syracuse, Orange head coach John Desko took out Williams and put in freshman Danny Varello.

Today was an uncharacteristic look at the two-time Tewaaraton Award nominee. After the first quarter, Williams was 1-7 in faceoffs and ended the half 2-13. He would finish the game going 4-18 (22.2%), which is a career-low faceoff percentage for the Preseason All-American. But Desko said not all the blame rests on Williams’ shoulders.

“We gave up some faceoffs in the first half and we didn’t give Ben a lot of help on the faceoffs,” said Desko. “I thought our wings did a much better job in the second half.”

Williams’ style of winning faceoffs is to clamp the ball and shove it in front of him, creating a ground ball for himself and in many cases a fast break for the offense. But he struggled to win the ball off of the initial draw, which led to a lot more 50-50 ground balls that Desko believes his team should have won.

But Williams always has trouble against Duke and their FOGO, Kyle Rowe. Rowe is also one of the best faceoff specialists in the nation. Coming into Saturday’s game Rowe boasted a career percentage of 61.8% at the X, only slightly higher than Williams’ 60.9%.

Rowe seems to be Williams’ kryptonite. In there two meetings last year, Williams was a total of 26-53 (.491%) against Rowe at the faceoff X.

“Rowe was tremendous today. He really does a great job of getting the ball out to himself,” Desko said. “That’s what makes him dangerous. You don’t have to rely on his wings to much … he was just prepared to play he did a great job.”

Varello came into the game and provided a much needed spark at the faceoff, winning 6-8. He was a good change of pace from Williams Desko said after the game. It was good for the freshman to get some reps in a game. He looked comfortable and his reaction off of the whistle today was incredibly strong.

Don’t expect Varello to take over. Williams is the premiere FOGO for the Orange and had an off-day. Desko reiterated that this could just be a matchup problem and that many FOGO’s that have a bad week come back and have a strong showing in the next game, but it is nice to see the depth at the position and the future seems to be in good hands.

Williams will look to rebound as Syracuse has another tough task next Saturday against Notre Dame. This is a crucial matchup for the Orange as the Fighting Irish are in line to become the new number-one team in the nation after top-ranked Rutgers lost to Delaware on Saturday, 13-9. The good news for Williams is that Notre Dame struggles with faceoffs, winning only 44.9% of them.