With the season coming to a close, every game has become a must win for this Syracuse Orange team. Heading into today’s game the Orange found themselves in a must win scenario against fellow ACC opponent Georgia Tech. Both teams are on the cusp of having the opportunity to play in this year’s bubbled up March Madness tournament.
If the tournament were to have started today, Syracuse (13-7) and Georgia Tech (12-8) would be playing as the 8th and 9th seeds. According to college basketball’s guru Joe Lunardi, Georgia Tech is in the group of the first four teams out.
The Orange were coming off of a disappointing loss to the Duke Blue Devils, a game highlighted by their struggles on the defensive end. Syracuse has not been able to find much success on the road this season (2-7) and they knew they were going to have to step it up on the defensive end against a scrappy Georgia Tech squad.
Slow starts have seemed to haunt the Orange all season long and it did not get much better on Saturday. Another slow start found SU in an 8-0 hole, which put them in a situation where playing catch up was a constant theme. SU found themselves down by as much as 13 at one point, but the Alan Griffin show took over.
Griffin went on a run notching 20 first half points for the Orange. What seemed like a forgone conclusion was turned around by Griffin’s spark on the offensive end. SU ended the first half on a 23-5 run, giving them a 39-34 lead at the half.
It really was a tale of two half’s for Griffin, as he managed to score only six points in the second half, giving him 26 points and 4 rebounds in 33 minutes of action. Aside from Griffin’s strong performance, very little help was provided elsewhere offensively.
Guerrier, Boeheim, and Girard III all scored in the double digits, but it was not enough to keep up with Georgia Tech in this one. Points in the paint were hard to come by for SU, especially with their big man Marek Dolezaj in constant foul trouble during the game.
Dolezaj spent a majority of the game on the bench and eventually fouled out in the second half, ending his day with just 2 points and 3 rebounds in just 10 minutes on the floor. One of the Orange’s biggest challenges this season has been filling the absence of C Bourama Sidibe.
Still sidelined with a torn meniscus, Syracuse has been missing the presence of their big man down low all season long. As great as Dolezaj has been, it has been hard to make up for the presence that Sidibe has down low. His ability to block shots and protect the rim are second to none.
Protecting the paint was a noticeable problem against Georgia Tech and their big man Moses Wright exploited that weakness. Wright was easily the player of today’s game, finishing with 31 points and 16 rebounds in 40 minutes of action.
The Orange kept the game close in the second half, but just could not find a way to regain the lead they once held at halftime. The game seemed to be out of reach when SU was down 79-72 with just 2:45 left in the game.
Georgia Tech’s guard Jose Alvarado ended up fouling out and it seemed like the Orange could use that as momentum. Unfortunately, not enough time and a failure to get stops on the defensive end led to a Georgia Tech 84-77 victory. The Orange drop to 13-8 on the season, with their hopes of getting a bid to the big dance looking slimmer and slimmer as the season winds to an end.
The Orange will look to end their two-game skid on Monday when the North Carolina Tar Heels come to town for a 7:00 PM tip-off. The Tar Heels are coming off a big win against Florida State, a win that gave head coach Roy Williams the 900th win of his career.