Syracuse offense stalls again in 84-66 loss at No. 15 Notre Dame
Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The crux of Syracuse’s turbulent season has been poor defense. That much we know.
Against Notre Dame, right now arguably the best team in college basketball’s most talented conference, SU wasn’t going to notch its first road win of the year in a defensive standoff. The Orange’s best chance was to keep the ball away from the Fighting Irish, work long possessions and move the ball. But with the game still within reach in the opening minutes, the following possessions ensued.
Tyus Battle missed a breakaway layup. Tyler Roberson turned the ball over and couldn’t finish a clean dunk on the next possession. Battle capped off the hectic stretch by missing an open 3.
The score remained 14-8, and only 62 seconds had ticked away. Syracuse never had a better chance to catch Notre Dame.
“We just didn’t play well,” senior point guard John Gillon said. “We didn’t play smart, didn’t set each other up how we needed to.”
Gillon’s assessment only begins to the describe the struggles of his team and what needs to change in the remaining 11 regular season games. SU (11-9, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) never figured out how to compensate offensively for its poor defense, and was promptly shutdown by No. 15 Notre Dame (17-3, 6-1), 84-66, at Purcell Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.
The Orange produced a season-low eight assists, and mostly the offense, once again, funneled through Tyler Lydon and his team-high 24 points. Lydon spent much of the first half trying to take advantage of mismatches in UND’s frontcourt, consistently calling for the ball by raising one hand as he pressed up against his defender.
Most times he received the ball, or at least that was the intention. Syracuse leaned so heavily on getting Lydon the ball, several feeds to the sophomore forward were tipped out of bounds by Notre Dame. When SU had chances to reset the offense, it seemed to replicate the exact same form.
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“I think trying to overfeed that mismatch made us stagnate at times,” senior Andrew White said. “But when you have a guy like Tyler, and you think you’ve got an advantage there, you’ve got to get it to him.
“We need to be more fluid when we’re giving him the ball so he has space and people are moving around him.”
Only briefly did SU flash that fluidity. The Orange played the first 17 minutes of the game without recording an assist, finally getting on the score sheet when White sank an open 3 on a dish from Frank Howard.
White almost recreated the same play to end the first half, burying a 3 with 10 seconds left on a feed from Lydon. UND’s lead was cut to nine at halftime, and the Orange even shaved it down to seven at the start of the second half when Gillon assisted Lydon on a dunk.
But Syracuse continued to punish itself with the ball in its possession. Battle tried for a half-court alley-oop to Roberson, only to have Austin Torres swat the ball away, much to the pleasure of the home crowd. Gillon then tried to heave a Hail Mary, nearly full-court inbounds pass to Battle streaking toward the hoop.
Battle’s momentum nearly carried him out of bounds as he corralled the ball just in time to throw it off a Notre Dame player. Gillon never saw the court again.
“I don’t really know what happened, to tell you the truth,” freshman forward Taurean Thompson said. “We’re better than that. We’ve just got to start playing together soon, and fast.”
Sitting in the corner of a stuffed visitor’s locker room after the game, Gillon was asked to describe what the Fighting Irish did well. He touched on their four-guard lineup, and how they all can make shots. They share the ball. They get each other “easy shots” because “they’re all smart and can penetrate.”
Gillon accurately described the strengths of one of the best teams in the ACC, as he intended. But conversely, he listed the qualities Syracuse, one of the worst teams in the conference, is lacking. Never did SU’s problems appear more clear.
Published on January 21, 2017 at 4:35 pm