Before the season, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim veered from form and praised his team and its depth.
After the Orange started the year inside the top 20 and posted three commanding victories, Boeheim looked like a sage. Three losses in four games have sent the Orange (5-3) a step or two backward, befuddled by a sudden inability to score.
Since a commanding 101-59 win over South Carolina State, Syracuse has hit a wall. The Orange struggled to put up points in losses to unbeaten South Carolina, now ranked 19th, No. 17 Wisconsin, and UConn, and has fallen out of the national rankings .
The only positive blip in the past four games was a 77-71 win over North Florida, and that had plenty of negatives - the Orange nearly blew a 24-point lead in the final 12 minutes.
''The offense is not good enough. It's not good enough to really win,'' Boeheim said. ''We've got to get better there. If we don't, we're going to struggle every game.''
Against UConn on Monday night, Syracuse shot 25.9 percent (14 of 54) and 23.1 percent (6 of 26) from beyond the arc. The Orange also missed eight of 24 free throws and yet still had a chance to win after Andrew White III hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 50 with just under 10 seconds left in regulation.
The game slipped away when a foul was called against Syracuse with 2.2 seconds to go and Christian Vital sank two free throws for the Huskies.
''It was a tough loss, but I think we'll bounce back,'' said Dajuan Coleman, who had 10 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for the Orange. ''We were in it the whole game. We just couldn't pull it off.''
White, a transfer from Nebraska, leads the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game, the only player averaging in double figures. He had 14 points against UConn, but was 4 of 15 from the field and only 3 of 11 from beyond the arc.
''I've got to do better to make sure I deliver all the time,'' White said. ''I've just got to do what I can. I know the rest of my teammates will ... score better with time. In the meantime, I've got to hold the fort down for this team. That's something I'm still learning.''
As a freshman last season, forward Tyler Lydon emerged as a bona fide star, punctuating a solid season with a gritty performance in the Orange's surprising run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. Lydon had 14 points and seven rebounds in each of the first two tournament games, twice chipped in with six blocks, and had 11 points, six rebounds and five blocks in an Elite Eight win over Virginia.
In the offseason, Lydon added 20 pounds of muscle, which promised to make him a more imposing figure this year. He has yet to hit his stride on a team that's searching for chemistry. Lydon has taken just 65 shots, just over eight a game, and is shooting about the same from all over the floor - 38.5 percent inside the arc and 37.5 percent outside.
''He's got to look to shoot the ball,'' Boeheim said. ''I'd like him to shoot 17 shots, and if he only makes two or three of them, that's fine.''
Senior Tyler Roberson also has struggled. One of the top offensive rebounders in the country, he's been parked on the bench a lot, averaging 19 minutes and five rebounds. Last year he averaged nearly nine rebounds and 31 minutes.
It took until the postseason for last year's team to coalesce into a threat, and with five newcomers on the roster this season it's apparently going to take more time for this team to jell.
''I think it's mostly because we're a new team,'' freshman guard Tyus Battle said. ''We've just got to hit the shots when we get them.''
Syracuse hosts Boston University (4-5) on Saturday at noon.
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