The past seven days were hardly a banner week in the history of Syracuse basketball. The Orange dropped two crucial games at Marquette and home against Louisville in their quest for back-to-back Big East crowns.
Syracuse has lost three straight games, six of its last 10, and back-to-back home games after its 38 game home winning streak was snapped by Georgetown.
The Orange are a mere shadow of the team that ran out to an 18-1 record and a 6-0 start to Big East play which included a road win over then No. 1 ranked Louisville.
Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Big East) is reeling as it enters the final week of the regular season looking to rediscover its winning formula.
Let’s take a look back at the week that was.
C.J. Fair: Who else but Mr. Reliable?
Fair notched a team-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and collected seven boards at Marquette, plus scored 19 points to lead the Orange while grabbing six boards against Louisville. The junior has been Syracuse’s most consistent and reliable player all year.
Brandon Triche: Forgive Triche if he purges this past week from his memory bank.
In the two losses, Triche scored a combined 16 points, eight per contest. He converted just 6-of-21 shots and missed on all six of his three-point attempts. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he fouled out against Marquette and turned the ball over seven times against Louisville. If Syracuse is going to save its season, Triche needs to be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.
Another common denominator in both losses was that Syracuse lost the rebounding battle each time. Marquette bettered them by four, 30-26, while Louisville edged them out by one, 33-32.
What makes the Louisville game even more frustrating was that the Cardinals played zone defense too. Yet, Gorgui Dieng managed to collect 14 boards by himself. That’s only two less than the entire Syracuse team and the same as Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland grabbed together.
Where, oh where, has the offense gone? Though the Orange put up 71 points against Marquette (good, but not great), they have scored their two lowest point totals of the year in two of their last three games, 46 and 53 respectively.
Even more troubling is that in the three straight losses, Syracuse hasn’t scored over 40 points in any of the six halves.
One of the luxuries Jim Boeheim had with last year’s stacked juggernaut was not needing to rely on freshmen. Carter-Williams was the fourth guard in the rotation behind Triche, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters. Trevor Cooney took a redshirt year due to the logjam in the backcourt.
After suffering heavy losses at the end of the season, Jardine and Kris Joseph graduated while Waiters and Fab Melo both declared for the NBA Draft. This season, Boeheim has needed to rely more on Cooney, DaJuan Coleman, and Jerami Grant.
Cooney, at 28 percent shooting, has yet to find his stroke from long-range that made him a coveted recruit. Coleman missed eight conference games due to knee surgery. And though Grant averaged about 10 PPG when Southerland missed six games due to an eligibility issue and Coleman was out, he has struggled lately.
At Marquette, Cooney and Grant (Coleman had yet to return to the lineup) combined for 15 minutes, scored five points, had two rebounds, and three assists.
Coleman did return against the Cardinals. The trio didn’t fare much better even with the big man back as they played 16 total minutes, didn’t score a point, and had two boards and one assist, all by Grant.
Freshmen tend to hit a wall towards the end of their first year. If even one of these three could start producing, the Orange would be better off for it.
Wednesday marks Syracuse’s last home game of the year. The fans will honor Triche and Southerland as they take Jim Boeheim Court for the final time in their careers.
The DePaul Blue Demons (11-18, 2-14 Big East) will play the role of sacrificial lambs as Triche and Southerland will look to make their final home game a memorable one.
While the Orange undoubtedly want to send Triche and Southerland off with a good memory, getting back in the win column and playing better basketball in all aspects of the game will be paramount if they hope to make any type of postseason run.
On Saturday, the Orange play their final regular season Big East game. And it’s only fitting that they pay a visit to their long-time rivals, the Georgetown Hoyas, to do so.
This game will be a case of two teams heading in opposite directions.
Syracuse is 4-6 in its last 10 games having dropped three in a row. Two of those losses have been at the Carrier Dome where Syracuse had won 38 straight prior to the Georgetown loss.
The Hoyas will enter the contest as one of the hottest teams in the country. Georgetown has won 11 straight and 13-of-14 overall. With an outright Big East title possibly on the line for the Hoyas, look for them to be more than ready to send Syracuse off to the ACC with a resounding loss.