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Wednesday, Dec 04, 2019 at 3:18 am

Syracuse Drops Third Consecutive Game to Iowa 68-54

By Corey Spector

CitrusTV Basketball Reporter

Unlike the two dreadful losses in the two games at Barclays Center last week, Syracuse (4-4, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) remained in a tight, back-and-forth battle with Iowa (6-2, 0-0 Big Ten) in the first half on Tuesday night. There were 12 lead changes and neither squad led by more than four points in the opening 20 minutes. However, maintaining a one-point cushion at halftime, the Hawkeyes outscored the Orange 38-25 in the second half to emerge with a 68-54 win in the B1G/ACC Challenge. Iowa improves to 6-2. Syracuse drops to 4-4, the program’s worst eight-game start since the 1968-69 season, when SU was 2-6 after a defeat to Washington State.

The catalyst for Iowa was the B1G’s leading scorer Luka Garza. The 6’11” 260 lb junior consistently took it too Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj inside, finishing with 23 points on an efficient 9-15 shooting, while also adding on 9 rebounds.

“We played three games in a row against a big guy that dominated us and it’s just something we can’t handle defensively,” Head Coach Jim Boeheim lamented. Oklahoma State’s Yor Anei (6’10” 236 lb) collected 19 points and 8 rebounds on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Penn State’s Mike Watkins (6’9” 257 lb) stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks and two steals.

On the other side, Syracuse’s leading scorer Elijah Hughes mustered 10 points while playing the entire 40 minutes. The redshirt junior is in a bit of a funk right now, connecting on just 25% of his field goals in the past two games after scorching Oklahoma State for a career-high 28 points. Dolezaj paced the Orange with 12 points.

Following two successful free throws from Buddy Boeheim to cut the SU deficit down to 6 with 14:07 left in the game, Iowa used a 12-0 spurt featuring two three-pointers from Jordan Bohannon. The program’s all-time leader in three-point makes finished the contest with 17 points on 5-14 shooting from deep.

The Hawkeyes controlled possession in the final stanza, only coughing up four turnovers and 12 overall for the game. At one point in the second half, Boeheim attempted to slap the press onto Iowa, but Fran McCaffery’s squad easily beat the pressure and got a bucket at the other end.

The 44th-year head coach said, “We can’t press this year with this team and that just blows the game out.” In previous seasons, the Orange, when trailing by about 8 or more points in the second half, would attempt to trap teams in the backcourt off made baskets. Boeheim made it evident that’s not going to be an effective tactic in 2019-20.

Syracuse’s offensive woes continue to demise the team. The Orange shot 36.5% from the field, the fourth time this season the ‘Cuse has connected on fewer than 40% of its field goal attempts. Joe Girard III did not score in the fist half and tallied 6 points for the game on 2-8 shooting. The freshman from Glens Falls is only shooting 6-28 (21.4%) in his past three outings, including 1-15 (6.7%) from three-point land. Girard, along with other players postgame, highlighted the importance of the next-game mentality and being unwavering in their confidence.

The Orange’s attack slots in as the fourth-worst offense in the conference at 69.0 PPG, and that number is heavily inflated by the 97 points SU poured on Bucknell two Saturdays ago. Boeheim said, “We’re not getting good movement. Offensively, we’ve got to be a lot better.”

With four freshmen seeing considerable time through the first four games (Girard, Brycen Goodine, Quincy Guerrier and Jesse Edwards), Syracuse is implementing one of its youngest rosters in quite some time. Boeheim believes the freshmen are lacking some poise in the early goings.

“Our young guys just aren’t ready yet for top 50 teams,” Boeheim said. Goodine suited up for 14 minutes, but didn’t score and gave the ball away twice. Boeheim wasn’t shy, adding, “Brycen has just looked uncomfortable out there. I’m not sure what is going on with him.” Edwards saw three minutes of garbage-time play, while Guerrier had four points, seven rebounds, and four personal fouls in 22 minutes.

Free-throw shooting still needs to be solved for the Orange. SU converted on just 10 of its 15 free-bees, right around the team’s season average of 66.9%, a category the Orange rank 11th in the ACC.

Following a few days to regroup, Syracuse heads down to Atlanta to square off with Georgia Tech (3-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) in the second ACC game of the season on Saturday at noon. The Yellow Jackets have a date with Nebraska tonight in their installment of the B1G/ACC Challenge.

@corey_spector5 | caspecto@syr.edu