Syracuse fell 64-53 at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Here are five takeaways from the loss.
1. Symir Torrence Was Sorely Missed
Joe Girard really struggled, and Syracuse had no other option with Torrence out due to injury. Girard turned it over six times and did not score until there were less than 40 seconds left with the game out of reach. He finished 1-9 overall and 1-6 from three. He was terrible in this game. This was a prime example of when bringing in Symir to change the pace, provide some better defense and someone who can attack the rim would have a big impact. Instead, Girard stayed out there and it did not get any better.
"Joe's hard to figure out this year," head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game. "He's played really, really well in games and then when he gets off to a bad start he just struggles. He struggled tonight for sure."
Boeheim also said he thought Girard would grab the opportunity without Symir there and step up to that challenge. He said he was very disappointed that Joe did not do that.
As long as Symir is out, if Joe plays like this, it is hard to see how Syracuse wins a game.
2. Bad First Half Offense Got Worse in Second Half
Syracuse really struggled offensively in the first half outside of Buddy Boeheim, and it was worse in the second half including Buddy. Syracuse scored 28 first half points on 32% shooting and 29% from beyond the arc. In the second half, the Orange scored just 25 points on 28% shooting and 7% from three point range. Girard, Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim combined to shoot 7-33 (21%) overall and 2-16 (13%) from beyond the arc. Syracuse missed the good looks it had, struggled to get anything easy without the ability to penetrate and did not go inside the Jesse Edwards enough given the other struggles. Just awful all around offensively.
Rebounding was a weakness early in the season but became a strength over the 5-8 games prior to the Duke game. In this one, it killed the Orange. Pittsburgh only outrebounded Syracuse by six, but it felt like a much larger margin than that. While Syracuse ended up with one more offensive board than Pittsburgh, the Panthers dominated the offensive glass in the first half, which allowed them to stay within four despite shooting 1-14 from beyond the arc and only 22% overall.
4. Benny Williams
Benny Williams did not check in until the final three minutes or so. John Bol Ajak played 10 minutes, grabbed one rebound and committed two fouls. Frank Anselem played six minutes and only had one steal in the box score. I understand playing time is based on what happens in practice. I know Bol Ajak has gotten good reviews for his recent practice performance. I am not even saying he should not get minutes. I am fine with it. I am just confused as to why Benny only plays in the final couple of minutes against Pitt, did not play against Florida State, and has played five minutes or less in four of the last five games. I know I do not see what happens in practice. That certainly contributes to my confusion. But given the struggles of both starting forwards, especially with blown defensive assignments and then missing open shots, could it really be worse?
The defense was fine in the first half, but had a lot of issues to start the second half. Pittsburgh scored 30 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half and made five of its first seven three point attempts. The Panthers are not a good offensive team. But there were too many open shots from the outside due to players being out of position, specifically on the wing, and easy dunks on a couple of passes in the lane. Yes the offense was bad. Yes that was a bigger issue in terms of losing this game. Also yes, the defense contributed to the loss as well.