Syracuse’s rebounding issues resurface in loss to Colgate
Elizabeth Billman | Senior Staff Photographer
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Nelly Cummings held his right hand in the air, waiting to see if his 3-pointer would fall through the net and extend Colgate’s lead to nine points. But once he realized that it wouldn’t, he took a hard step toward the basket. Four Syracuse players had gathered in the paint but zero made contact with a Raider to box them out of rebounding position, and up near the 3-point arc — where Cummings had started to track the ball toward the corner — Buddy Boeheim made the same mistake.
A skip-pass from Tucker Richardson set up the defensive slides, with Joe Girard III cutting off Ryan Moffatt — the recipient of Richardson’s pass — en route to the basket, and eventually left Cummings open for the sharp kick-out and 3-pointer. Cummings then collected his rebound in the corner, flipping a backwards pass to another Colgate player while fading out of bounds, and eventually the ball cycled back to Richardson, positioned near the top of the key with a foot of space behind the 3-point line and no one from Syracuse within reach. Once that shot, that dagger, that jab to remind the Orange that maybe they couldn’t trim the deficit any further, settled into the net, Colgate’s lead became 84-75 and the clock continued to tick closer to the four-minute mark.
“We’re all around the rim, and guys on offense kinda crash late and you don’t know where the ball’s gonna go,” Jimmy Boeheim said. “So it comes out around the free-throw line, around the mid-range area, and it’s harder to corral those.”
In its first two games of the season, SU (2-1) had, for the most part, avoided surrendering second-chance points and offensive rebounds to Lafayette and Drexel. But against Colgate, who upset the Orange 100-85 on Saturday, they allowed 19 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points — a flashback to the 2020-21 season when Syracuse produced the 339th-ranked defensive rebounding team in the country, per KenPom, and allowed 15 or more offensive rebounds 10 times. Jeff Woodward had five offensive rebounds for Colgate (3-2). Moffatt added four. And for the first time this season, the rebounding issues of years past emerged for the Orange, as Colgate’s 25 missed 3-point attempts produced scenarios where they “struggled to compete for the 50-50 ball when it comes out that long,” Jimmy said.
“Teams are going to take 35 or 40 shots against us from the 3,” head coach Jim Boehiem said. “We didn’t defend them very well and we didn’t rebound. Those are the two key things.”
Syracuse’s rebounding depth took a hit preseason when Bourama Sidibe suffered another knee injury, forcing him to miss approximately a month, but the rebounding problems really started back in the offseason. Quincy Guerrier entered the transfer portal, Alan Griffin tested the NBA draft waters and signed with an agent, and Marek Dolezaj announced that he’d pursue a professional career overseas. That group had already struggled with rebounds, allowing 50 combined against UNC in two meetings and another 20 to Pittsburgh, and with those departures went 54.8% of the Orange’s total boards last season. It left point guard Joe Girard III as the leading returning rebounder at 2.9 per game.
Through the season’s first two games though, in smooth nonconference wins against Drexel and Lafayette, Syracuse at least won or tied its opponent in the rebounding margin while experimenting with a forward and center depth chart that included three newcomes — Jimmy, Cole Swider and Benny Williams — as well as two returning centers, Jesse Edwards and Frank Anselem, who only accumulated limited minutes last year.
But from its third possession of the game, when Moffatt grabbed Colgate’s first offensive rebound, the Raiders found ways to maneuver around Syracuse’s defenders and generate second chances on offense. Eight of its other offensive rebounds followed missed 3-pointers too, and Colgate head coach Matt Langel said postgame that those long shots often lead to long rebounds against the zone — peeling defensive players away from the low blocks where they’re perched without time to settle into the proper positioning. It’s a main takeaway he had when the Raiders practice zone too, something that’s done just in case they ever need it for a game.
On one sequence in the second half, with eight minutes left, Oliver Lynch-Daniels missed a jumper from the elbow, but Moffett snuck behind Edwards and grabbed the rebound that bounced past him. He kicked it out to Richardson for a 3-pointer that bounced long, but Moffett elevated in between a pair of SU defenders and secured that board, too.
“Those are the best points to shoot because we’re not in position to defend them,” Boeheim said.
That additional chance allowed the Raiders to reset their offense for a third time, with a pair of guards rotating the ball outside the 3-point arc before an entrance pass was inserted to Moffett. A high-low pass to Keegan Records was stuffed by Edwards at the rim. But, on a fourth chance, after he’d snuck in from outside, Lynch-Daniels picked up the ball and flung a shot toward the basket as the shot clock expired.
He drew a foul on Edwards, his second that eventually spiraled into five, and hit both of the free throws. That turned Colgate’s six-point lead into eight, pushed the game further out of Syracuse’s reach and continued the reopening of a defensive rebounding wound — with Saturday the latest reminder it still existed — that never quite healed from last year.
Published on November 20, 2021 at 10:17 pm