Three Thoughts: Syracuse vs. Duke

The Orange lose consecutive games for the first time since 2007.

It was a rainy Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for the Konic Minolta Big City Classic as the No. 14 Syracuse Orange (4-4) fell to the No. 8 Duke Blue Devils (9-3). The Orange came out strong in the first quarter, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Duke took a one-goal lead into halftime and then a three-goal lead in the third quarter. The Orange stormed back to tie the game, but a series of bad turnovers resulted in a Duke victory. This was the first time that Duke has beaten Syracuse since 1978.

1. The Orange can't play 60 full minutes of lacrosse.

We saw it last week against Villanova, and it happened today in the game with Duke. Against the Wildcats, the Orange played really well in the first half and then collapsed in the second. Today, Syracuse had a great first quarter and an inspired streak in the third, when the Orange went on a 3-0 run. But aside from that, the Orange turned the ball over at key times, the defense was slow and Syracuse just couldn't find the back of the net. In order for the Orange to pick it up, the team leaders need to step up and play more consistently. JoJo Marasco needs to be the guy to light a spark when the team needs it, and he hasn't been. He had a chance to score a huge goal today, and he fired it right into the pocket of the Duke goalkeeper, who wasn't having a great day. Luckily, Tommy Palasek has been stepping up big for the Orange. He had 4 goals and an assist today, but it wasn't enough to keep his team alive.

2. Bobby Eilers has been a disappointment.

Going into the season, Bobby Eilers was a player I was keeping an eye on. I thought he was going to have a big year and be a boost for the offense. He hasn't been that at all, and things didn't change on Sunday. With just minutes left, Dominic Lamolinara made a huge save to give the Orange a chance. Eilers ended up with the ball in the offensive zone and made a terrible pass into the hands of a Duke defender. That was one of the last chances Syracuse had to come back. Eilers should be a guy who the team is comfortable with having the ball near the end of the game. At this point in the year, he earns my "Biggest Disappointment" award.

3. Coaching can only go so far.

Coach John Desko and the crew has worked hard to get this team back to meet the Syracuse lacrosse standard of excellence. Coach Kevin Donahue has done a nice job changing up the face-offs, so much so that the team actually won the face-off battle today. That's saying a lot considering last season, Syracuse won just 7-of-27 face-offs against Duke, and the Blue Devils returned its key guys at the X. Syracuse has put a few different guys at the wings and it has finally paid off.

But the coaching strategy can only help in certain aspects of the game. All year, Desko has been telling his players to change planes on their shots. Against St. Johns, shot selection was dreadful, and the same goes for Villanova last week. Today, it got a little better. There were some good bounce shots taken and they resulted in goals. But late in the game, there were chances for big equalizing goals that didn't change levels at all. Palasek even mentioned after the game that he should have gone low against the goalie in the final minutes, a goal that would have tied the game. Until things change, this team will continue to shoot the ball right into the goalie's pocket.

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