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Saturday, Nov 26, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Syracuse Struggles in 64-50 Defeat to South Carolina at Barclays Center

By Christian De Guzman

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Barclays Center erupted as Syracuse set up its 2-3 zone.

Then PJ Dozier scored.

A minute later, the noise in the Barclays Center exploded as Syracuse once again tried to stop South Carolina.

Then Maik Kotsar found space below the net and scored.

All of this happened while on the offensive side of the ball, Syracuse failed to convert on its opportunities. The Gamecocks showed relentless half-court pressure defense throughout the game, and the Orange could not sink its shots.

As a result, #18 Syracuse (4-1) dropped its first game of the 2016-17 season, losing to South Carolina (6-0) by a score of 64-50. This was Syracuse’s first game away from the Carrier Dome this season, and the first game where Jim Boeheim’s team was tested.

“I thought South Carolina played great defense,” said Coach Boeheim. “The best defense we’ve seen obviously this year, but the best defense we’ve seen in a long time.”

Syracuse never held a lead in Saturday’s game as South Carolina showed relentless pressure throughout the entire game. The Gamecocks forced 17 turnovers by intercepting passing lanes and forcing Orange players to lose their dribble.

“We knew we had to move the ball better,” said Coach Boeheim. “We knew we had to get some penetration. I don’t think our guards did a good job getting in lanes, but those are things hopefully we can improve on.”

The constant pressure from South Carolina forced Syracuse to take many tough and contested shots. This resulted in many SU misses, even when Orange players found themselves wide open. SU only went 14-44 from the field.

“They just did a good job getting us out of our initial actions,” said Andrew White III. “They did a good job creating havoc and just making things uncomfortable.”

The defense for SU struggled as well. South Carolina did a very good job at finding the open spaces in the zone and getting excellent looks. That allowed the Gamecocks to go 23-51 from the field. PJ Dozier was particularly effective, as he hit multiple jumpers from the free throw line, right in the middle of the zone. Coach Boeheim wasn’t that concerned with his defense, however.

“This isn’t about our defense,” said Coach Boeheim. “Every time we lose a game, it’s really almost never about our defense.”

One bright spot from Saturday’s defeat was the performance of Tyler Lydon. The sophomore – who by many is expected to be a first-round draft pick in the 2017 NBA draft – led all scorers with 18 points. He also grabbed 7 rebounds as he continues to rotate with DaJuan Coleman and Paschal Chukwu at the center spot. However, Orange fans should expect to see more of Lydon at the 5 spot for SU.

“Our best team is with Tyler Lydon at center,” said Coach Boeheim. “He’s our best center, there’s no question. DaJuan and Paschal are not ready to play at this level.”

Saturday’s loss means the Orange travel to Wisconsin on Tuesday with a 4-1 record and potentially without a ranking in the AP Top 25. With an inexperienced team, it looks like the Orange will fight an uphill battle to avenge last year’s loss to the Badgers at the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse should also be prepared for a lot of noise in its first true road game of the season on Tuesday. The Barclays Center was loud, with the majority of fans in attendance wearing Orange. The Kohl Center promises to be louder and more hostile on Tuesday.

Coach Boeheim hopes his young and inexperienced team can stay composed.

“If they had a problem with this, they’re really gonna have a problem Tuesday night when we go to Wisconsin,” said Coach Boeheim with a laugh.