Orange fall to Yellow Jackets on Senior Night

No. 4 Syracuse failed to score more than 63 points for the ninth consecutive game in the 67-62 loss to Georgia Tech.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim’s message after the game was short and simple: “We have to score,” he said. “That’s the problem.”

Coming off a brutal 67-62 home loss to Georgia Tech (14-16, 5-12 ACC), No. 4 Syracuse (26-4, 13-4 ACC) has not scored more than 62 points since its dramatic 91-89 overtime victory over Duke on Feb. 1. That win was over a month ago, and the Orange only averaged 58.4 points-per-game since then.

Photo: Sarah Nathan
C.J. Fair, next to Coach Jim Boeheim, is honored on Senior Night.

The biggest reason for the lack of scoring, Boeheim said, was because the team hasn’t found its third option on offense since forward Jerami Grant has been injured. Without Grant, C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis are SU's only other offensive weapons, Boeheim said. Guard Trevor Cooney was supposed to be that option, Boeheim said, but Cooney’s been highly inconsistent this season, especially in the last nine games and Tuesday night. Since the Duke game Feb. 1, Cooney’s gone 43-for-165 from the field. In the Georgia Tech loss, he went 3-of-12, including 1-of-8 from three-point range.

“For us to be good, somebody else has to get it going,” Boeheim said.

The game itself went poorly for the Orange from the start, as SU shot a dismal 40% from the field midway through the first half. Syracuse led for the first five minutes of the game, but a 15-5 run by the Yellow Jackets curtailed all of the Orange’s momentum. Tyler Ennis ignited a little Syracuse run with five minutes left in the half, scoring nine straight points for the Orange, but SU let up buckets on the defensive side to help the Yellow Jackets stay ahead.

After SU went into the half down 31-23, Boeheim deviated from his normal defensive strategy and switched to press. Fair and Ennis also took it upon themselves to be the sparkplugs in the otherwise inept SU offense. Together, the senior forward and freshman guard scored 34 of SU’s 39 second-half points. Fair scored 25 of his 28 points in the second half, and Ennis added nine more of his own.

“When you see how the game was going, something had to happen,” Fair said. “I was just trying to fight every play. I wasn’t about to give up on anything.”

And fight he did.

Down 59-47 with 5:06 remaining in the game, Ennis found Fair for a much-need three-pointer to bring the Orange within nine of the lead. Ennis and Fair traded scores in the next two possessions for Syracuse, cutting the deficit to 59-54 with 2:47 left in the game.  Cooney even scored his only three-pointer at the 1:51 mark to draw within four.

But it was not enough, as the Orange missed multiple opportunities to score and Georgia Tech continued to make free throws to increase its lead. The Orange finished a dismal 7-of-16 from the line, and shot 39.1 percent from the field on 25-of-64 shooting.

“You could see that we were off tonight,” Fair said. “I like the way we fought at the end, but it was too little too late. We have to find a way to play like that the whole game.”

Tyler Roberson started in place of the injured Jerami Grant, who sat out his first game of the season with soreness in his back. But Roberson was ineffective, only chipping in two points and three rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Roberson’s play was indicative of his knowledge of the playbook, Boeheim said, meaning he’s not ready to contribute yet.

“He cannot help us right now,” Boeheim said of Roberson. “He hurts us on defense and he’s not ready to help us on offense.”

Boeheim added that even though the team has lost three of its last four, he’s very happy with a 26-4 record, especially considering the amount of close games Syracuse has played in and won.

“I think we’re well ahead of predictions. We just have to regroup.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.