In their last two games (losses to North Carolina and Notre Dame), Syracuse’s traditionally dominate 2-3 zone defense, to put it simply, was terrible. Unfortunately, this inefficient defense continued for most of the game Tuesday night against Wake Forest.
The Orange, in the first half, looked like the same team that was handily defeated in the last two games. They looked tired and uninterested on defense. Guards John Gillon and Andrew White struggled covering the top of the zone, forcing the forwards to help, leaving Wake’s John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou open in the post. Despite the poor defensive play, and even worse rebounding, in the first half, the Demon Deacons only held a 1 point lead after 20 minutes.
The second half is where both teams began to pick up the pace. Both teams struggled shooting in the first half (SU: 35% Wake: 38%), but recovered in the second. Syracuse, led by excellent play from Andrew White and Tyler Lydon, shot 58% from the field after halftime. The Orange also improved defensively in the second half. While the defensive effort was better than it had been earlier in the game, it was far from good. Wake Forest’s John Collins continued to abuse Syracuse’s frontcourt on his way to 23 points and 12 rebounds.
An uneventful and slow game got interesting with 6 minutes left in the second half. Some clutch shots by Andrew White (27 total points) and Tyler Lydon (15pts) gave the Orange a 67-61 lead with 4 minutes left. The Demon Deacons did not give up and scored 7 straight points to take a 68-67 lead. With 1:15 left and the game tied at 68, White hit a three and Syracuse regained the lead. After trading threes and a few free throws, Tyler Lydon put the Orange up two with 11.3 seconds remaining. Wake Forest would get within one with 9 seconds left but the game was iced by two free throws each from Andrew White and Taurean Thompson giving Syracuse an 81-76 victory.
Even with a victory, the Orange still have a lot to work on. Syracuse was manhandled on the boards once again. Throughout the entire game, Wake Forest’s forwards continuously out positioned Lydon, Thompson, and Coleman. While losing 7’2” Paschal Chukwu was huge for the rebounding game, the rest of the roster needs to give a better effort on the boards. Syracuse showed some flashes of improvement on Tuesday night, but they need to play consistently well in order have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament.
The Orange play next on Saturday (12pm tipoff) at home against the Florida State Seminoles.