Boeheim rips team in Syracuse’s close-shave win over Ga. Tech
ATLANTA — Here are three random takes from Syracuse’s less-than-scintillating 46-45 victory over Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion, an empirically brutal outing which evoked differing viewpoints from the respective head coaches:
1. Let’s begin with Jim Boeheim’s standup routine in the aftermath of V-I-C-T-O-R-Y
The two-part thought hits you immediately after interacting with the legendary Syracuse coach for the first time:
What’s Boeheim like when the Orange lose an ugly game? And should the media have paid a cover charge before sampling the coach’s material?
From the moment he sat down for the media session, Boeheim bore the look of a crestfallen coach who had lost by 40 … and not someone who dutifully squeaked out a conference win on the road.
And that aura of disappointment carried over to the Q&A portion, as well.
With little prompting, Boeheim qualified Wednesday’s effort as, "Without a doubt, the worst offensive game I’ve ever seen … I can’t say anything else. I mean — literally."
The glib comment elicited a dose of hearty, but also nervous laughter from the media — especially the Atlanta-based contingent.
Is the coach always like this?
But Boeheim wasn’t done offering searing and largely unsolicited testimony of a night that wrought just 33 cumulative field goals.
On the numerous missed layups from both sides: "It was a struggle, an absolute struggle — all night."
On Syracuse big man Rakeem Christmas grabbing the rim on an offensive fast break, in a fruitless effort to corral a missed shot: "In my 39 years of coaching, I’ve never seen someone just grab the rim."
On Orange freshman Kaleb Joseph’s scoreless night: "If (Joseph’s) going to play 23 minutes, it would help if he scored. A lot!"
On Tyler Roberson’s play from Wednesday, relative to his seasonal progress: "Tyler was nowhere to be found" — referencing the sophomore’s two points and four rebounds.
On his team’s defensive strategy for Georgia Tech’s potential game-winning possession, with 6-plus seconds left: "We were just playing the percentages that (the Yellow Jackets) wouldn’t make a shot … because they hadn’t made any."
That last offering was a slight toward the Yellow Jackets, although Boeheim qualified things by saying it was hard to tell if Syracuse and Georgia Tech were either "very good" defensive teams … or both "very bad" offensive units.
"What did they score … 90 against Notre Dame?" asked Boeheim, rhetorically referencing the Yellow Jackets’ double-overtime loss to the No. 14-ranked Fighting Irish on Saturday.
(The final score was actually 83-76.)
2. Coach Brian Gregory had a completely different approach to this sluggish defeat
In general, what occurs behind closed doors … stays behind closed doors.
In other words, if Gregory was feeling any great frustration about Tech’s second home loss (the first came to unheralded South Carolina-Upstate on Dec. 6), or the club’s 0-2 start in the ACC … none of that prospective anger surfaced during the media session.
Gregory characterized the Yellow Jackets’ defensive effort as "exceptional." He was particularly pleased with how Syracuse’s Christmas needed to hoist 17 shots to finish with 18 points (and eight rebounds).
He was also content with the 19 offensive rebounds, along with the half-court ball movement against the Orange’s vaunted matchup zone. In that vein, however, there wasn’t much to celebrate about shooting 26.3 percent from the field (15 of 57).
"It was obviously a tough one to lose and not being able to finish in the end," said Gregory, while noting Georgia Tech’s paltry tally of nine second-chance points. He then added," We had some good looks in the end. … Our formula (for success and team building) has put us in position (to win games); and now, we’ve got to take another step."
Georgia Tech big man Charles Mitchell carried the mail on this night, notching 17 points (on 5 of 10 shooting) and 11 boards — both team highs. Against the Syracuse zone, Mitchell swiftly moved from elbow to elbow, serving as the versatile key to busting the gridlock of defenders.
As part of that, Mitchell performed admirably on dribble-drive moves to the basket, hitting short jumpers and even dishing the ball to baseline cutters. But in the final analysis, the Yellow Jackets simply didn’t make enough plays against an active, but not necessarily daunting Syracuse zone.
The bevy of missed layups killed Georgia Tech’s chances, as well.
"(The Orange defenders) are extremely long, which affects a lot of shots," said Gregory, whose club now sits at 9-5 on the season. "It was a knock-down, drag-it-out game … which I don’t have a problem with."
3. This is not a vintage Syracuse team … making Tech’s setback even more deflating
With a resume that includes 900-plus victories, nine Big East regular-season titles, five Big East tourney crowns, four Final Four berths and one national championship (2003), it’s easy for Boeheim to collect the occasional free pass when venting about his players.
By extension, the 70-year-old Boeheim also has enough experience and perspective to know when he’s sitting on a winner … or struggling to keep his team’s head above water.
Regarding this inexperienced squad, the latter would apply.
"We just can’t play like this and be successful," said Boeheim, whose Orange (11-4 overall) are off to a 2-0 start in their second ACC campaign. He then added: "If we have to hold somebody to 45 points … we’re not going to win many games.
"Somehow, as a team, we’ve got to get there."
Syracuse showed brief flashes of dependability and resiliency in the final minutes, following the lead of Christmas, who nailed a pair of game-winning free throws with 12 seconds left.
"That’s big," beamed Boeheim. "You like to see a senior in that position … those were hard (free throws) to make. It showed great composure to be able to go to the line and make (the shots)."