Lauren Murphy | Staff PhotographerMen's Basketball
TEMPLE OF DOOM: Free throws cost Syracuse as Orange suffers 1st loss of the season to Temple
NEW YORK – What should’ve been opportunities for easy points progressively turned into moments of dread. The simple routine of shooting free throws became Syracuse’s most difficult challenge.
“We didn’t make any free throws,” guard Brandon Triche said. “So when you go there and you get fouled, you’re like ‘Oh man, I got fouled, now I’ve got to shoot free throws?’”
Too often on Saturday, the Orange saw its attempts clank off the rim.
Ultimately, the missed free throws piled up and Syracuse left a total of 15 points at the line. Temple hit 29 of its 36 free-throw attempts, and that, coupled with the Orange’s futility at the line, sent the Owls (9-2) to an 83-79 upset win over Syracuse (10-1) Saturday in front of 12,648 fans at Madison Square Garden. The Orange struggled from the field, went cold from the arc and when all was said and done, those empty points cost Syracuse a win.
The whole game was a battle. After the Orange lost a 10-point lead in the first half, Temple never let Syracuse pull away again and took the lead in the second half. So when SU guard Michael Carter-Williams stepped to the line with 12 minutes left in the game and the Orange down 55-53, he had the chance to tie it up.
Both free throws bounced off the rim. James Southerland grabbed the rebound after Carter-Williams’ second attempt and made the put-back to tie it, but SU didn’t have the lead. Carter-Williams, who hit five clutch free throws in the final minute to send the Orange to a win over Detroit on Monday, missed eight free throws Saturday.
“I think if I would’ve made my free throws, we would’ve won the game,” Carter-Williams said. “Other than that, I really have nothing to say about it.”
What made it worse for Syracuse was Khalif Wyatt and Anthony Lee draining a combined 26 free throws. Seemingly every time they stepped to the line they gave Temple critical points. Lee hit two with 11:32 left to give Temple a 57-55 lead. It continued to give the Owls a cushion over the Orange all game long.
Wyatt controlled Temple’s offense. He drove to the basket, knocked down shots from the outside, and most importantly in a game like this, drew fouls on Syracuse. He hit all 15 of his free-throw attempts, the very same number SU missed as a team.
“I think he was penetrating our zone. He got a lot of calls tonight,” Carter-Williams said. “He’s good at creating contact. I think he got some easy points.”
With three minutes left, SU forward C.J. Fair, who had 25 points Saturday, knocked down a 3-pointer from the left baseline. The crowd jumped to its feet. Syracuse pulled back to within two. Temple then missed two field goals, including a 3 from Wyatt.
Lee fouled Carter-Williams with 1:20 left. The guard stepped to the line. Two good free throws would’ve tied the game. He only hit one. Temple still led 74-73.
Still, the Owls were up by only one point. Despite Syracuse’s struggles, the win was there for the taking. But to get possession, the Orange had to keep fouling. Each time they did, Temple took advantage.
“I need to be able to make my free throws and have that confidence to go up to the basket,” Triche said. “I think Mike missed a few uncharacteristic free throws as well. Just as a team, we just have to shoot better.”
In a span of 22 seconds, Wyatt and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson hit a combined six free throws that gave the Owls an 80-75 lead with 34 seconds remaining.
A layup from Cooney cut the lead to three, but Wyatt hit two more free throws to make it 82-77 and seal the win.
“They made their free throws. We didn’t,” Boeheim said. “You don’t like to say it comes down to that, but when you miss 15 free throws, it’s going to be tough to win any game. That’s enough right there.”
After the game, Boeheim discussed Temple limiting Carter-Williams’ passing options and said Southerland, one of the team’s best 3-point shooters, didn’t have any open looks from the outside. It all hurt. But those weren’t the reasons Syracuse suffered its first loss of the season.
“It was always going to be a close game. It was always going to be a battle,” Boeheim said. “But you can’t miss 15 free throws in these kinds of games.”
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