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Syracuse can’t solve Georgia Tech’s defense in its first conference loss


first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Jim Boeheim took his suit jacket off in frustration and handed it to someone sitting behind the SU bench. Georgia Tech kept making shots early in the second half, and Syracuse remained flummoxed by the GT defense. When the Yellow Jackets made yet another transition 3 with more than 12 minutes left, the SU head coach had no choice but to stand up and call his third timeout in less than eight minutes.The Carrier Dome crowd booed Syracuse.“It was a battle to try to get back in it,” Boeheim said. “But we didn’t do that.”Points were going to be at a premium on Saturday evening with Syracuse and Georgia Tech both entering the game ranked in the country’s top-17 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Kenpom.com. But for the opening stretch of the second half, it seemed Georgia Tech couldn’t miss. With a chance to remain undefeated in conference play, Syracuse (11-5, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) instead fell behind and couldn’t shrink its deficit against Georgia Tech’s (10-6, 2-1) varying defense, losing 73-59. SU finished shooting 31.6 percent, including 21.2 percent from 3. “We just didn’t attack the zone well,” SU guard Frank Howard said. “Our attacks weren’t consistent, we settled a lot and we got beat.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt took more than two minutes for the game to have any points at all: Tyus Battle knocked down a 3 from the left corner to break the deadlock. But after Battle’s shot, Syracuse struggled to make anything.The Orange missed seven in a row beyond the arc from that point on. Syracuse couldn’t get past Georgia Tech’s different looks on defense. When SU has faced matchup zones this season, it has had problems.“(Defense is) our only way of survivability,” GT head coach Josh Pastner said. “Because we have a lot of limitations, so the thing that we can control is our defense. And that’s what we do, and that’s who we are.”Boeheim insisted it was just a matchup 2-3 zone. Howard called it a 1-3-1, but more like a 1-1-3. Oshae Brissett said it was “weird-looking.” Battle argued it wasn’t GT’s defense causing issues, just missed shots. And Pastner characterized his defense as “mix and match.” GT’s head coach held up different numbers on his fingers or on small, laminated cards to change the defense. But even after 40 minutes against it, the Orange couldn’t reach the same conclusion about what they’d just faced.The Yellow Jackets fluctuated from a man-to-man, a 2-3 zone, a 1-3-1 zone and some three-quarter court zone pressure. The Orange had to spend valuable seconds of each possession diagnosing the opposition’s defense before they could get into a set. It caused problems all of the first half, with the Orange throwing blind passes while being forced to shoot late in the shot clock when they didn’t turn it over. Tony Coffield | Staff PhotographerBy the end of the first half, Syracuse was shooting 32 percent from the floor and 26.3 percent from 3. “We have guys that have proven on the road and here that they can make 3s,” Boeheim said. “But we’ve also proven in other games that we can’t. When you play against any zone, you’re gonna have to shoot to win.”Early in the second half, one possession ended with Battle flinging up an off-target shot from 35 feet after unorganized ball movement made the shot clock run low. Another possession, Buddy Boeheim had to yell “man-to-man” from a spot on the right wing for SU to recognize the Yellow Jackets’ defense after the Orange had stalled for a moment.GT had begun to find space, though, after the SU defense played equal with its opponent. The Yellow Jackets went on an 10-0 run early in the second half through its transition play, and SU couldn’t make a shot to slow the running. With about 13 minutes remaining, Georgia Tech drained another 3 and leaked out deep for a touchdown-pass layup.That’s when the fans started to boo.“They weren’t scoring a ton of points,” Battle said. “We just weren’t scoring at all.”Syracuse’s pressure defense threatened to force its way back into the game as time wound down. The Orange forced turnovers, and Buddy hit a couple of 3s. The Carrier Dome crowd changed its attitude briefly, cheering for SU now with the deficit as small as 10. But the Yellow Jackets scored enough in response, even with issues against Syracuse’s press.The Orange finished with 19 turnovers, and it seemed most drives ended with the ball being knocked away or a forced pass out to the perimeter. As Syracuse tried to make inroads in the final minutes, Jalen Carey lost the ball twice on drives to give the Yellow Jackets the ball back. The Georgia Tech defense helped the Yellow Jackets survive, just as Pastner wanted.“We can’t play at that level,” Boeheim said. “We can’t make those kind of mistakes.”The game ended with a season-high 33 attempts from deep for the Orange. But Elijah Hughes went 1-for-8, Battle went 1-for-4 and Brissett didn’t make a single of his four attempts. Boeheim said afterward that Brissett should look in the mirror and figure out what’s the best way to help himself and his team. But more than Brissett, Syracuse, as a collective, couldn’t figure it out. The Orange couldn’t solve GT’s defense, and they couldn’t get shots to fall. It’s a quick turnaround to a game at No. 1 Duke on Monday. SU will only have 48 hours to resolve issues, but it’ll have to figure them out to compete with the top team in the nation.“We literally hate losing,” Howard said. “It messes up our mood. This is not something we’re gonna drag on. In this league, if you do that, that’s how you end up in an NIT game.” Comments Published on January 12, 2019 at 8:19 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3last_img

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