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Five Takeaways: Illinois 73 Syracuse 44

What to make of the Orange's blowout loss.

Syracuse basketball fell 73-44 at #16 Illinois Tuesday night. Here are five takeaways from the loss. 

1. Offense

This was one of the worst offensive games for Syracuse basketball in recent memory. Some of it was due to Illinois pressure defense, but a lot of was missed shots either on the perimeter or at the rim. Syracuse lacked awareness in certain situations, such as the shot clock winding down, missed open looks, did not share the basketball very well and turned it over 17 times. It was an awful performance that Syracuse should forget and move on from. 

2. Judah Mintz

Mintz returned after getting ejected in the previous game and had his worst game of his young career. Mintz finally looked like a freshman, playing out of control, missing shots and turning it over. He appeared as if he was trying to make up for missing last game and, as a result, overplayed in most circumstances. It was an awful performance, but that does not change Mintz's immense talent. He will learn from this and be better for it. Performances like this happen to most freshmen. Do not expect it to be a trend. 

3. Joe Girard

Joe Girard is in the midst of the worst shooting slump of his career. He had another poor shooting night and did not score. There were a few nice passes mixed in and he was better defensively at times, but if Girard cannot hit open shots, it is a major detriment to the Syracuse offense. Not only that, shooting ability is the primary asset he brings to the table. While even when he is struggling from the floor defenses still have to pay attention to him, so it can open things up for others, it is hard to keep him out there for as many minutes as he typically gets when he is shooting like this. That is why he only played 20 minutes against Illinois. For Syracuse to turn things around and start racking up wins, he needs to get things going. 

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4. The Rest

Justin Taylor provided a brief spark off the bench and made a pair of threes. Chris Bell also hit a pair of threes but finished 3-9 from the floor. Jesse Edwards had 17 rebounds, two steals and three blocks, but was just 3-9 shooting as well. Benny Williams showed signs after dealing with an illness last game, but picked up a technical late after not getting a foul call. Symir Torrence was OK in 13 minutes, but has not offered much offensively so far this season. The bottom line is, Syracuse needs more from its other contributors. That means Edwards needs to be more efficient shooting the ball and has to stay out of foul trouble. Bell still needs to give more on the boards. Taylor looks like he deserves more run as he is shooting well from the outside and rebounding well (he had five rebounds in 23 minutes). Benny has to continue to be aggressive defensively and more consistently on the boards. Syracuse just needs more from a lot of places right now if it wants to string wins together. 

5. What now?

After starting 3-1 with a solid win over Richmond, the Orange has lost three straight games. The St. John's loss was still encouraging with some positive signs, but the last two were demoralizing. Syracuse should not lose to Bryant even if Bryant is good (and they are). Yes Illinois is really good and Syracuse put together a defensive performance that was good enough to win. The Illini scored 11 points fewer than its average and shot the ball far worse, a lot of which was due to Syracuse's defensive efforts. That is where this team has the potential to be really good. We have seen flashes of that with Syracuse's length and athleticism. If the offense can get back a bit (Girard making open shots, more Justin Taylor opportunities, Jesse being more efficient) and the defense continues to get more consistent, there is still reason to believe this team can turn things around. While I still like the potential of this group and several of its players, there is no question that the last three games were a significant set back. To have any hope of a respectable season, in my opinion, Syracuse has to win at Notre Dame. While the Irish is 5-1, it beat Radford by three, Lipscomb by one and just lost to a solid but not great St. Bonaventure squad. Even though it's on the road, that is a must win for the Orange even though it feels odd calling an early December game a must win. 

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