Early struggles for Syracuse could have March ramifications
Syracuse had all five starters returning from last year’s Sweet 16 squad — one of a handful of teams in the nation with that luxury — and was ranked No. 16 in the preseason. But injuries to all three point guards, poor shooting and a sometimes leaky perimeter defense have led to a slow start as the Orange get set to play their second ranked team of the season.
Syracuse (3-2) is at No. 16 Ohio State (6-0) on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. After losing twice in Madison Square Garden — to Connecticut and to then-No. 13 Oregon in the 2K Classic — the Buckeyes represent the Orange’s last chance to earn a quality nonconference win away from home. If they fall short, it could have ramifications in March.
The Orange are coming off a 77-56 victory over Colgate , a game they put away in the second half after trailing early. Syracuse hit 14 of 26 field goals in the second half, including 5 for 10 from long range.
“That just goes to show our ability as a team and our potential,” senior point guard Frank Howard said after his first outing of the season. “We can go on those quick runs like that.”
Howard, who suffered an ankle injury in September and had surgery to repair it, made his first field-goal attempt of the season, a 3-pointer from the corner. That was his only basket in 19 minutes, but he had five assists with zero turnovers and three steals.
“It’s going to take some time, but he was very steady,” Boeheim said. “I thought he really got the ball to people and got us into our offense in the second half. Very important.”
“I still got to get my legs under me,” Howard said. “Just got to be more consistent. We’ve got a long road ahead.”
Syracuse is shooting 39.7 percent overall and just 23.3 percent (24 of 103) from beyond the arc, averaging 4.8 made 3-pointers per game and allowing 8.8. In the loss to Oregon, the Orange missed 23 of 28 from 3-point range.
“You have to make shots,” Boeheim said. “We’ll get our rhythm back.”
The performance of Boeheim’s son, Buddy, has been puzzling. Syracuse shot just 31.8 percent last season from beyond the arc and the 6-foot-5 freshman guard was expected to give the Orange a lift on the perimeter. Boeheim demonstrated a deft scoring touch in preseason, scoring 19 points in his first scrimmage and winning the team’s 3-point shooting contest, then hitting 12 of 22 shots overall and 6 of 12 from beyond the arc in exhibition victories over Division II foes Saint Rose and Le Moyne.
So far in the regular season Buddy has struggled, though, going 3 of 28 overall and 2 of 18 from beyond the arc. He’s been shooting well in practice, though, and with Howard back he may get better looks.
“We think we can do better,” the coach said. “Hopefully, that will come.”