‘Really bad’ defense continues to plague Syracuse on the road
Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — For the first time in 55 years, Syracuse has lost seven consecutive games away from the Carrier Dome.
Three have come in the form of a blowout by 17 or more points. Only a two-point loss to Connecticut at Madison Square Garden helps lower SU’s average margin of defeat to a still sizable 13 points over the eight road losses,
The latest embarrassment away from the confines of Central New York was an 18-point whopping at the hands of No. 15 Notre Dame (17-3, 6-1 Atlantic Coast), in which Syracuse (11-9, 3-4) didn’t close within single digits for the final 17:44. SU’s 84-66 loss at Purcell Pavilion Saturday afternoon dealt Syracuse its second blowout loss of the week at a top-15 team and left its head coach and players searching for answers as to why this group has been historically bad in its travels.
“I don’t even know,” point guard John Gillon said. “It’s just totally different when we leave the Carrier Dome. We’re not having the same results or energy and it’s showing.”
Of the teams Syracuse has played in its last eight games away from the Dome — North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame — only one, the Gamecocks, isn’t accustomed to facing a Jim Boeheim 2-3 zone.
That may be a reasonable starting point for why SU’s defense, and in turn its results, have been horrific on the road. In those games, Syracuse has surrendered an average of 77 points, which includes four games in which teams have scored 83 or more against an often-porous defense.
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“Our defense is not good, it hasn’t been good on the road,” Boeheim said. “It’s been better at home obviously but it’s been really bad on the road and new guys … if you can play defense at home there’s no reason you can’t on the road. The court’s the same. We just are not.”
Throughout Syracuse’s struggles away from home and even inside the Carrier Dome, Boeheim has harped on the fact that he starts four “first-year players.” That, he’s repeatedly stressed, has stunted the process of this team learning the intricacies of the Orange’s defense as a unit.
It just so happens that SU has played a handful of explosive offenses — Wisconsin, UNC and Notre Dame — at their arenas. But Boeheim insists that it’s not the teams Syracuse is playing on the road, citing a 43-point decline in Boston College’s scoring when they traveled to Syracuse.
It also could be the distractions in the stands. For freshman Tyus Battle, who was verbally abused by the Fighting Irish student section after missing a pair of free throws, it’s not hard to zone out fans, he said. All he had to do was make his next pair from the line.
“It might be a tough environment, but that’s no excuse,” said sophomore forward Tyler Lydon, who was taunted with “airball” chants during his 24-point afternoon. “It should never be an excuse for any team.”
The Orange has only five road games remaining, making it already official that Syracuse will have a losing record away from home. Games against North Carolina State, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Louisville await, but Syracuse can do nothing to avoid its third straight losing season (including tournament play) away from the Dome.
As reporters approached SU’s locker room after the game, Tyler Roberson walked out. “You’re not leaving that locker room,” Boeheim said before pulling the senior aside for a stern private chat.
This is what Syracuse’s season has become on the road: widespread frustration after blowout losses.
That shows no signs of changing.
Published on January 21, 2017 at 4:07 pm