SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) With only three games left in the regular season, Syracuse is in a skid.
Since sweeping a four-game home stand that started with a 15-point win over No. 25 Notre Dame and ended with a convincing 13-point victory over Florida State, the Orange has lost to Louisville and Pitt as the postseason looms.
At the very least, having a week off before facing North Carolina State (14-14, 4-11) in the Carrier Dome on Saturday has to be good for the Orange, whose NCAA RPI ranking fell two spots to 59th after the 66-52 loss to the Panthers.
Barring a surprise showing in the ACC tournament, the Wolfpack is pretty much assured that its four-year streak of NCAA Tournament trips will end. But ACC-leading scorer Anthony ''Cat'' Barber (23.8 points) is a strong candidate for conference player of the year despite the Wolfpack's so-so record.
Syracuse played Pitt even until the closing minutes last Saturday. The Panthers used a late 14-3 run to pull away at the end as Syracuse missed six straight shots, failing to make a basket for a span of more than 5 minutes. The Orange were soundly beaten on the boards, 43-23, and its top three scorers - seniors Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney and freshman Malachi Richardson - combined for only 19 points on 6-for-29 shooting.
''It is definitely frustrating,'' said Gbinije, who has scored in double figures in every game this season.
The big three also missed all nine 3-pointers they attempted in the second half.
''If you don't make shots, sooner or later it just wears you down,'' Boeheim said.
''At the end of the day, you can look at a lot of different things,'' he said. ''Even with the rebounding (deficiency), our defense held us in there pretty good for a long time. But we have to make shots if we're going to be successful.''
After senior day on Saturday, Syracuse finishes the season with road games against North Carolina on Monday night and Florida State a week from Saturday. That second break should be another boon for the key trio. Each is averaging over 35 minutes in league play, with Gbinije topping the list at 37.79 minutes per game, second in the league to Barber.
''When you're playing a lot of minutes, you're going to wear down a little bit,'' Boeheim said. ''I think we have enough of a gap in there that will help us.''
Syracuse has slumped at an inopportune time with the field for the NCAA Tournament to be selected in two weeks. The Orange, who had won eight of nine before the current skid, is still in the hunt for an at-large berth but was being projected as a 10th seed entering the weekend.
''We've just got to win these next three games and go to the ACC tournament and win some games,'' Richardson said. ''If it happens, it happens.''
AP College Basketball website: www.collegebasketball.ap.org
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