Syracuse Overcomes Offensive Struggles in Victory versus Pittsburgh
By Christian De Guzman
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – At this point in the Syracuse Men’s Basketball season, head coach Jim Boeheim will take a win any way he can.
That doesn’t mean it was the prettiest game of the season, but a win nonetheless
Syracuse (13-6, 2-4) and Pittsburgh (8-11, 0-6) struggled to shoot the basketball effectively throughout their contest on Tuesday night. Eventually, Syracuse pulled away and won 59-45 over the Panthers at the Carrier Dome. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Orange.
In the game before Tuesday’s match against Pittsburgh, Tyus Battle was the main focal point on offense. Against the Panthers, Frank Howard led the charge for Syracuse. The junior guard stepped up, filling the stat sheet with 18 points, seven boards, four assists, and five steals.
“He’s improved his shooting,” said Boeheim on Howard. “Tonight he made big plays. Frank’s only negative has been his turnovers. He only had one tonight. He’s really been solid all year.”
Howard made his presence felt alongside Battle largely in the second half. Syracuse outscored the Panthers 32-23 in the final 20 minutes. Both Howard and Battle attacked the paint rather than settling for long jump shots or threes.
“We got some movement,” said Howard. “We got into the lane. That was one of the biggest things I wanted to focus on coming out of the locker room.”
Syracuse scored 28 points in the paint while limiting Pittsburgh to just 12. Battle benefited greatly from the change in mentality to attack the basket. The sophomore guard started the game 0-6 from the floor, but finished with 15 points.
“I wasn’t making threes, so I tried to get into the lane,” said Battle. “We got more movement and got the ball into the middle. That made things easier.”
Syracuse shot 43.1% from the field throughout the game, while Howard, Battle, and Oshae Brissett all finished in double figures. However, Coach Boeheim was still disappointed with some of the missed opportunities that the Orange had to score more easy buckets.
“We’ve got 7-2, 6-8 and 6-9” said Boeheim. “We’re not getting [the ball] back. Pittsburgh is not a great rebounding team. We need to get some of those back.”
One of the strengths early on in the season for Syracuse was its ability to dominate the glass, especially on the offensive end. The Orange only grabbed two more rebounds that Pittsburgh throughout the game. Syracuse also only grabbed seven offensive rebounds – which is low for a team that was at one point in the top 10 nationally in offensive rebounds.
For the most part, Syracuse played a solid defensive game. Pittsburgh only shot 35% from the field but the Orange failed to play good defense against Parker Stewart, who hit seven three-pointers on the night. This marks the third time this season that Syracuse has allowed a player to hit at least seven three-pointers in a game.
“Our best players have got to know what guy is making shots,” said Boeheim. “If there is one guy making shots, you cannot let that guy shoot.”
Syracuse now has an eight-day layoff in between games. This marks the longest break Syracuse has had this season in between two games. The start of ACC play has exposed many problems in this Syracuse team, and Boeheim is planning to use the time wisely.
“This team – more than any team I’ve ever had at this stage of the year – really needs some days of practice just to make sure we understand what we’re trying to do,” said Boeheim.
Syracuse needs to hit its stride quickly to prevent dropping more games in ACC play. The next chance the Orange have to pick up a win is on Wednesday, January 24th, when Boston College visits the Carrier Dome. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m.