|We just pull up our pants, and do the rockaway...|
I think Orange Nation was pretty excited about what they had seen in the Carrier Dome against Miami and Pittsburgh. Rightfully so. That was the Syracuse team we thought we'd get this year. But you didn't think the team had quite turned the corner until they could show that success on the road. So, in many ways, Tuesday's game in Blacksburg was the most important game of the season to this point. And, well, the Orange failed. It was another uninspired defensive effort. It was a decent offensive effort, but offense doesn't win games. You can score 100 points, but if you give up 101, you lose. Exaggeration, but you see my point. The Hokies beat the Orange 83-73.
- Freshman Taurean Thompson was your leading Orange scorer, with 18 points on 7-13 shooting. He's a fantastic offensive player, and he probably has room to improve there. But Good God, he's clueless on defense. I'm not gonna sit here and rag on him because a freshman hasn't grasped the intricacies of the 2-3 zone by the second week of January. But it's his Achilles Heel. Until he does get it, he'll be a defensive liability, and Boeheim will have to do a cost/benefit analysis on whether or how long to keep him out there.
- Speaking of Achilles, we had another "lower body injury" scare from Tyler Lydon. It appeared he rolled the same ankle he had issues with earlier this season, and was visibly bothered by it for the remainder of his minutes on Tuesday. By the time Boeheim pulled him, he had scored just two points while grabbing seven rebounds in 29 minutes. After the game, Boeheim lamented he should have taken him out earlier, but Lydon -- always the team player -- had said he was fine. He echoed those comments after the game, as well.
- Lydon really has to walk a fine line between being a team player, and protecting his future. It's no secret he's probably bolting for the NBA after this season, and continuing to play on a hurt ankle could lead to a worse injury. Of course, NBA teams draft hurt players all the time -- because it's all about potential anyway -- so maybe this isn't even a concern.
- Andrew White and Tyus Battle scored 15 and 13 points, respectively, each playing all 40 minutes. Again, solid offensive efforts. Andrew White's shooting was off again (as sometimes happens) but he still finds ways to rack up points. So, whatever.
- Tyler Roberson had a double double, 14 points and ten rebounds. And that was only in 19 minutes. He's got a short leash from Boeheim, so even if he makes the most of his minutes, enough mistakes gets him pulled. Attribute some of this to lineup considerations, too.
- Frank Howard got 13 minutes of action. And that's all I have to say about that.
- With the zone being uninspired, VTech's already good game plan to exploit it was that much more effective. The Hokies shot 49.1%, 40% from three, and had 20 assists. Lots of great passing, high/low, baseline cuts. Frustrating for an Orange fan to watch.
- Buzz Williams kept most of his clothes on for most of the game. So, that speaks volumes.
It's become abundantly clear that the success of this team depends on whether, and to what extent, it decides to play active defense. It can usually score. It can usually hang close enough to make a comeback. But it all goes back to defense. As goes the defense, so goes the Orange. But at this point, I have no idea what the fix is, or why we can see the defense play so well and so inspired for two straight games, and then see it all disappear. All I know is that they better decide to play that inspired, active defense on Saturday in the Dome against Boston College. It was bad enough watching Syracuse lose at Conte Forum in person; I don't think I could handle another defeat in the Carrier Dome. So, Syracuse, please help me out.