Syracuse's perimeter defense struggling as break comes
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse has a week off to recuperate after a six-game stretch in 15 days.
That's good timing for a team in a slump with the gauntlet of the final six weeks of its Atlantic Coast Conference season looming.
Time to shore up the perimeter, and a little extra rest certainly can't hurt. Before season's end, the Orange (14-7, 5-3 ACC) have five games against four teams currently ranked in the top 10: Louisville and Virginia at home, Notre Dame on the road, and a home-and-home with Duke.
And three of them shoot lights-out from long range.
Notre Dame leads the conference in 3-point shooting at 40 percent, Virginia (39.5) is second and Duke fourth (37.4).
Attacking Jim Boeheim's signature zone defense from outside has worked well for several foes this season. The Orange (14-7, 5-3 ACC) was leading the conference in early league action in 3-point percentage defense (28.9 percent), but has since dropped to sixth (30.2) after allowing its past four opponents to make 37 of 94 shots from long range. That's an accuracy rate of just under 40 percent, and Syracuse lost three of those games.
North Carolina went 9 of 16 from behind the arc on Monday night, pulling away at the end against the fatigued Orange to score 93 points, the most Syracuse has allowed in a regulation game in nearly six years.
Overall, Syracuse has allowed eight or more 3-pointers in a game nine times this season and has lost six of those - to California (8 of 19) at Madison Square Garden, at Michigan (11 of 33), home against St. John's (9 of 16), at Clemson (8 of 20), home to Miami (10 of 29), and against the Tar Heels.
''It's tough,'' junior swingman Michael Gbinije said. ''They (UNC) just played better. Down the stretch they hit more 3s and got the lead. I thought we were very active (defensively). In the second half, we were still active, but not as much. We gave up 3s to Paige. That was the game plan coming in, limit his 3s, and we didn't.''
UNC's 93 points were the most allowed by Syracuse since Connecticut scored 117 in six overtimes in March 2009. It was the highest total allowed by the Orange in regulation since Villanova scored 102 in February that same year.
In last year's meeting in the Carrier Dome, North Carolina scored just 45 points, going 2 of 12 from behind the arc. The Orange shot a season-low 35 percent and still won by 12. On Monday night, UNC had 58 in the second half alone.
''The 3-pointers were killing us,'' Orange center Rakeem Christmas said. ''When you don't stop 3s, you can lose games.''
In the other three games the Orange perimeter defense faltered, Syracuse defeated Virginia Tech (10 of 25) by a basket on the road and Wake Forest (9 of 25) by three at home - in overtime. Boston College matched Miami's total, but Syracuse withstood a late rally and beat the Eagles 69-61.
Villanova is the only team to shoot poorly from behind the arc against the Orange (4 of 16) and win. The Orange self-destructed with turnovers, allowing a game-tying five points in the final 11 seconds of regulation, and lost in overtime.
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