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Marquette-Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR So Now What?

Would now be the time to panic?

Brian wanted nothing to do with the task of writing this recap. I readily accepted, not because I knew what I needed to write, but I figured it would come to me. Plus, if I didn't write it, it wouldn't get done. But I've given myself some time and some drinks since Syracuse lost to Marquette yesterday 76-70, and I guess I'm ready to put finger to keyboard, as it were.
You could say the team is lost, wandering aimlessly in an unfamiliar forest in the dark. You could say they're in a tailspin; in a nose-dive. Call it what you want; they're losing. After starting the year 18-0, they've lost four in a row, and seem to have forgotten what winning feels like. The really tough thing about it, though, is that they almost tasted that winning feeling out in Milwaukee yesterday. Almost.
Once again, Kris Joseph led the way in scoring for Syracuse with 18 points, including 7-15 overall and 3-6 from three-point range. While we're on Kris, though, let's mention that he had a whopping one rebound. One. To put things in perspective, Fab Melo managed to grab two rebounds in his 14 minutes of play. Kris more than doubled those minutes, but came up short in the rebounding department. Sad thing is, though, the team as a whole didn't rebound well either. 22 altogether. Now the really sad thing is that those 22 rebounds amounts to only two less than what Marquette pulled down as a team. Needless to say, the ball found its way through the hoop more often than not in this one.
Also of note for the Orange was the return of Scoop being (the good) Scoop. Mostly. Scoop had a career-high 13 assists to match his 13 points for a nice double-double on the day. Contrary to the past several games, Scoop was running the point, setting up plays, and dishing off the ball to the playmakers to score. It was nice to see that offense run like that again. Scoop also, for the most part, took good shots. Most of the ones he missed were because he didn't shoot it well, not because he shouldn't have taken the shot. It wasn't a perfect game by any means -- he turned the ball over five times -- but if we can see Smart Scoop out there for the rest of the season, I'll be a lot less apocalyptic.
Rounding out the rest of the starting lineup, Rick Jackson had a decent game with 14 points but only four rebounds; Melo had the aforementioned two rebounds and two points (more on him later); and Brandon Triche chipped in nine points with five assists. That's a grand total of 18 assists from your starting backcourt. Good old-fashioned basketball. OK, back to Melo. I openly questioned Boeheim's logic in putting Melo back in the lineup "because we need his size out there." My theory was that sure, his size is good, but for the four minutes of action he'll see, who cares? Once again, Coach proved he's smarter than me, on both accounts. This team played significantly bigger with him on the court -- and what I mean in that the whole team acted as though they were bigger than they actually are, as if they were feeding off Melo's size. Melo also logged 14 minutes, most of which seemed to come in the second half and I think helped create the situation for Syracuse to pull right back into this one and even tie the game a few times. Melo is obviously still a freshman, obviously still learning the game, and still can be quite a liability -- even on horrible phantom intentional elbow calls -- but his presence in the game was certainly needed in this one.
Off the bench, Boeheim didn't go nearly as deep as he has in past games. Baye Moussa Keita logged 18 minutes, followed by CJ Fair with 15 minutes, and Mookie Jones with four minutes. Mookie Jones! In fact, I believe he may have been the first off the bench in the first half! Put him down for the 4-trillion club, as he registered no other stats, but wow if that doesn't tell you what's going on in Boeheim's head, then you don't get it. And to his credit, Mookie's defense wasn't horrible -- and he kept his hands up, which I like. Keita turned in a nice performance, as per usual, with seven rebounds, four points, and two blocks (one of which seemed like he wanted to be Hakim Warrick circa April 7, 2003). CJ Fair once again got significant minutes, and pretty much made the most of them, contributing 10 points on 5-7 shooting, three rebounds, and three blocks. I think he's a good player, and half of his playing experience is the "taking it all in" approach which, don't get me wrong, is vital for a player like him to truly blossom. We are gonna be all about him in a year or two.
So, the bench went three-deep. Absent from the lineup was Dion Waiters (expected) and James Southerland (unexpected). If you want more information about why Dion didn't play, go check out twitter, the message boards, or listen to talk radio. You'll find your answers. Bottom line, Coach is Coach and he'll do what he does. We'll see Dion play again soon enough. His absence of course was noticed and, I'll go out on a limb here, may have cost Syracuse the game. Not to say that's the one reason Syracuse lost, but the points he could have chipped in would have been nice. The bigger questionmark is why Southy didn't play. Could be a Dion-like issue, could be illness or injury, could be a bad practice. We don't know as of yet. Or at least I don't. I'm sure it will reveal itself in the days to come, but his outside shooting presence was missed at Marquette, and will be key to Syracuse having a shot at Connecticut on Wednesday.
On the other side of the ball, Jae Crowder was a scoring machine for the Golden Eagles, putting up 25 points on 8-16 shooting (including 1-3 from three) and 8-10 from the line. Other Eagles in double figures included Jimmy Butler with 19, and Darius Johnson-Odum with 17. Their bench only netted four points and two rebounds, so virtually a non-factor.
Syracuse actually outshot Marquette 57-52%, tied on threes at 8-13 apiece, and the Eagles as stated above had the slight edge on rebounds 24-22. But the big stat that jumps out at you is free throws: Marquette shot 24 of 33 from the line, while Syracuse shot 8 of 14 from the line. This makes me think a few things. Syracuse is bad at foul shots. Syracuse did not create situations to be fouled to get to the line. Maybe, knowing that they don't shoot well from the line, they purposely didn't create the situations to get to the line? I suppose it's possible -- have the mentality of "why get fouled and maybe hit 1-2 free throws, when I can shoot the ball and more often than not score the 2 points or even the three?" I can't say that's a horrible game plan, but it certainly shouldn't be THE game plan. Free throws are a part of the game, and in order to win close games down the stretch, in the Big East Tournament and in the NCAAs, you have to knock down free throws.
Everyone's said it a million times, so I'll throw it out there too. This loss was a lot different than the loss to Seton Hall -- maybe more similar to the losses to Villanova or to Pittsburgh. They've all been the same in the sense that the opposition built a large lead early in the game. The Seton Hall game stands out because Syracuse never found themselves back in that game. At least at Pitt, against Nova, and at Marquette, Syracuse fought back and made a game of it. That's certainly a promising sign. A sign that this team knows how to win. Or at least get back into a position to win. The problem, obviously, is preventing that situation in the first place. Syracuse can't afford to have slow starts when the opposition has quick starts. Energy spent hanging with or maintaining a lead is energy better spent than having to fight and claw just to be in it.
By now you've heard that only three times in the Boeheim Era has Syracuse lost four games in a row, and never during that time have they lost five in a row. History now has to face another road game, this time the University of Connecticut. A daunting task, to say the least. My initial reaction after the game was "Well you know what will happen now, right? We'll go into UConn and destroy them!" Because that's how the laws of averages work. I'm a lawyer, I know about laws. This one is air tight. I hope.

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