Syracuse struggling to put out opponent’s hot hand

first_img Published on January 17, 2018 at 10:06 pm Contact Tomer: [email protected] | @tomer_langer The Carrier Dome crowd groaned loudly every time Maryland’s top 3-point threat Kevin Huerter caught the ball in the second half against Syracuse in late November.When Kansas’ Devonte Graham kept knocking them down in early December in Miami, he imitated Syracuse alum Carmelo Anthony’s three-to-the-dome celebration by hitting his head with three fingers.On Tuesday night, after Pittsburgh’s Parker Stewart kept drilling 3-pointers, Orange head coach Jim Boeheim turned back to the bench and slammed down his suit jacket.“Our best players have got to know what guy is making shots,” Boeheim said after the win over the Panthers. “There’s one guy making shots, you cannot let that guy shoot.”Syracuse’s (13-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) opponents are shooting 33.3 percent from behind the arc, a slightly above average number both nationally and in the ACC. SU is allowing just 63.6 points per game, the 19th mark in the country. But the Orange’s opponents are getting 39 percent of their points from the 3-point shot, the 12th-highest mark in the country per Kenpom.com. Part of SU’s issue has been one opposing player getting hot — and getting lost by the SU defense.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHuerter, Graham and Stewart each knocked seven 3-pointers against the Orange. Part of what sparked their hot shooting days is uncontested looks from the top of the key. And if the Orange wants to stay in games while compensating for a lackluster offense — the Orange averages 70 points per game, 281st in the country —  it’ll have to stop opposing players from knocking so many in from deep.“Obviously we didn’t,” Boeheim answered when asked what adjustments were made against Stewart. “Obviously we haven’t,” he added about the season long trend, “so we need to.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorHuerter burning the Orange was left a bit overlooked because it came during Syracuse’s best win to start the season, improving to 6-0. Boeheim spent more time postgame talking about how the Orange would have offered Huerter if it still had all of its scholarships. Boeheim did acknowledge that the defense lost Huerter a bit, but the level of concern seemed low.The next game, against then-No. 2 Kansas, was different. Every time Syracuse tried to make a run, Graham would stop it with a bucket. Several of his 3s came on uncontested looks from the top of the key even as he kept knocking them down, finishing with a game-high 35 points.Therein lies the issue for Syracuse. Boeheim often refutes the claim that his zone is worse against 3-point shooting teams than a man-to-man. But so far this season, the Orange hasn’t been able to make up for the blind spot in its zone: the top of the key.“You’ve got to leave somebody open, it’s usually the guy at the top,” Graham said about the 2-3 zone. “They just were doing their zone principles I guess.”When a guard initiates offense down the middle of the floor, there are three natural passes for him to make. He can throw it to either wing or try and fit it into the high post. Either way, the zone shifts and collapses toward the strong side.If the guard who threw the initial pass gets it right back, opponents can catch Syracuse in between zone shifts, thereby creating an opening to get off a shot. Virginia’s Ty Jerome hit two 3s on back-to-back possessions this way early in that game’s second half.Of the three players to hit seven 3s against the Orange this year, Stewart is the only freshman. Stewart said that the game against Syracuse was the first time he’d seen a team use exclusively zone defense against Pitt this season.When the Panthers were preparing for the zone, Stewart said that he noticed the top of the key would be open. He hit multiple 3s from that area, which helped him find his rhythm on the way to a career-high 23 points.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorStewart’s sixth 3-pointer came with almost 15 minutes late in the game but his seventh came with less than three minutes left. The Orange might have found one way to slow down the hot shooters during the Pitt game.Stewart felt that the zone began playing higher up, which made the Panthers change their offensive game plan.Junior point guard Frank Howard and freshman Howard Washington said that Syracuse tried to resort to more of a matchup zone. If the ball entered the high post, their first reaction was to find Stewart and make sure somebody checked him. The guards would leave the player in the high post for center Paschal Chukwu to deal with until they could recover.Still, Howard said that part of the initial issue is a lack of focus from Battle and him, who sometimes struggle while playing nearly the entire game.“I think we kind of get lazy a little bit sometimes, not really identifying shooters,” Howard said. “We’ve got to be engaged every play. When we fall asleep on those plays, those are big for us. And that momentum switches a lot for us. Because we kind of fall asleep on defense sometimes. We’ve got just to be engaged. I think we’re getting better on that.”In the Orange’s next game against Boston College, it’ll have to contend with Jordan Chatman, who is sixth in the ACC in 3-point percentage. Chatman hit two 3-pointers in both games against Syracuse last year. Three games later, SU will once again have to face Virginia’s Kyle Guy, seventh in the conference in 3-point percentage.Syracuse has found enough offense to win two of its three games in which one opposition player hit seven 3-pointers. But for an Orange team that has been unable to crack 60 points in its last two home games — one against a bottom-feeder in the league and another against a Notre Dame team without its two best players — it’ll need to end that trend.The blueprint has been set by Syracuse’s opponents — let your best shooter get hot near the top of the key. Now, it’s the Orange’s job to answer.“We need to pay attention to the scouting report,” Battle said. “We need to understand the scouting report. We just lost (Stewart) too many times.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more