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Wednesday, Feb 12, 2020 at 10:42 am

Elijah Hughes’ Lower Body Injury Could End Syracuse’s Season

By Jonathon Hoppe

CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter

Three minutes into Syracuse’s game against NC State on Tuesday, Orange forward Elijah Hughes left the game with a lower body injury. He did not return and Syracuse lost, 79-74, for its sixth time at home this season. Hughes’ absence prompted freshman Joe Girard III to score a career-high 30 points and Quincy Guerrier to record his second-career double-double. But, those strong outings weren’t enough to combat the loss of the Orange’s best player. 

“When you lose your best player, one of the three or four best players in the league, it’s difficult,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said.

Hughes was injured in warmups and had to come out of the game after attempting to give it a go. Given the circumstances, the Orange actually played fairly well without their ACC Player of the Year candidate. Syracuse held a late-game lead before a 15-2 run jolted the Wolfpack past the Orange. 

Tuesday night was one of the most important games of the season for Syracuse. Not only did the loss provide a sour ending to the three-game homestand, but it pushed the Wolfpack past the Orange in the ACC standings.

Thus, the Orange’s road to the tournament has suddenly become intimidating. Many pundits are now saying SU must win both games of its upcoming two-game swing at No. 8 Florida State and No. 5 Louisville. That would be hard to do with Hughes in the lineup. It will be incredibly difficult with him on the sidelines. 

When Hughes isn’t on the floor, opposing teams only have two shooters to worry about: Girard III and Buddy Boeheim. This puts extra pressure on the guards, a prevalent aspect of Tuesday’s game when Girard III and Boeheim combined to go 3-for-18 from three-point range. They were also the only two Orange players to attempt a shot from distance.

Boeheim, the league’s most active three-point shooter, has struggled in recent games against elite defenders, which could be problematic when the Orange face one of the toughest defensive teams in the country this weekend. Like usual, Florida State is long and athletic. The smallest player in the ‘Noles rotation is 6-foot-4. They’re the tallest team in the country. 

Looking ahead, a Syracuse team without Hughes could struggle to score against elite competition. That’s bad news considering the Orange desperately need quality wins. Hughes posted a tweet that said “nothing major,” earlier in the week, leading most to think he will be back in the lineup soon.

His return could be the difference in the Orange making or missing the NCAA Tournament in March. Or his absence against NC State on Tuesday could have been the last official chapter in the Orange’s postseason chase. 

jahoppe@syr.edu | @jahop23