SU vs. Wisconsin

Basketball loses battle at the boards

Syracuse gets doubled up in rebounding, falls short to Badgers in OT.


A Thanksgiving championship hangover may have led to the lackluster performance on the glass as the Orange dropped their first game of the season, 66-58, to the Wisconsin Badgers in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge.


Truth be told, these made-for-TV tournaments and marquee match-ups are tough on any team in the country. Syracuse had just gone through the gauntlet of defeating then-ranked opponents Connecticut (No. 18 AP, No. 21 Coaches) and Texas A&M (currently No. 18 AP, No. 20 Coaches) en route to the Battle 4 Atlantis title. Anyhow, heading into Saturday night’s game against a tough minded Wisconsin (5-3) team, the newly anointed No. 14/19 Orange (6-1) struggled to live up to the early hype.

Photo: Bryan Cereijo


Offensive versatility by the Orange was on full display in the Bahamas, but was quickly grounded after their return flight to Syracuse. In a possession for possession battle, the Badgers forced ‘Cuse to play their patented slow-down, methodical style.  


The team who made two consecutive Final Four trips is a shadow of their former selves, with the departures Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky to the NBA. But, Wisconsin seems to find a way to force opposing teams to play their game, a hard-nosed possession struggle pace. This style stifled Syracuse, as the Badgers bullied the Orange in the battle of the boards, 51-25.  Syracuse managed only six offensive rebounds and 19 on the defensive end.  


Tyler's Lydon and Roberson, who typically have eaten the glass in Syracuse’s earlier games, had only six total rebounds combined. DaJuan Coleman, who realistically contributes solely in the rebounding category, was limited to just three of his own and did not see the court after logging just five first half minutes.


Despite the obvious statistical disparities, head coach Jim Boeheim was not disappointed in the overall effort he saw. The Syracuse defense held Wisconsin to 41.7 percent from the field, and 27.8 percent from beyond the arc.


“I thought our defense was good enough,” Boeheim said. “We did a tremendous job getting back into the game and taking the lead.”


Additionally, what plagued the Orange is their historical woes at the free throw line. Equally as lackluster as they were on the boards, 55 percent from the stripe just doesn't get it done. Especially a 5-11 performance in the second half which allowed the Badgers to capitalize on turnovers when you cannot convert foul shots.


“We cannot miss free throws coming down the stretch,” Boeheim said. “We had great opportunities to keep the lead. We’re going to have bad shooting nights from the field, but we can’t shoot 50 some percent from the foul line, it just is not going to get it done.”


Depth will continue to be an issue for Syracuse as was shown in this game. Lydon played 42 minutes and Roberson managed 37 minutes while in foul trouble, when Coleman went MIA after intermission. Traditionally the Orange never go deeper than seven or eight players, but with a thin back line of Coleman, Roberson and Lydon players like Chinonso Obokoh or Doyin Akintobi-Adeyeye may need to see a handful of minutes just to spell their front-court mates.  


There were bright spots on the court for the Orange, though, as they continue to ripen early in the season. Kaleb Joseph sparked the ‘Cuse back into the game by bringing them within three points at the break. His six points and two assists in only 14 minutes gave Syracuse a lift that was much needed in a low scoring first half.


It may not show up anywhere in the box score, but Trevor Cooney’s assertiveness of taking the ball to the basket when the long range shots weren’t falling shows both internal fortitude and team leadership. He led the Orange at the line going 6-8, and Cooney realized that sometimes you have to grind out possessions against an opponent like Wisconsin.


“Absolutely, I felt it in the game and I have been getting to the basket a lot more this year than the last couple years,” Cooney said. “I felt if I could get there (the basket), just get fouled...that’s what I was trying to do at the end.”


The scoreboard may have been a healthy result in disguise for Syracuse after a victorious trip to the island last week. A good gut check can refocus a team at any point in the season. However, things don't get easier as two of the next three games pit the ‘Cuse against long time Big East rivals Georgetown and St. John’s, both on the road. The Hoyas and Red Storm will surely be licking their chops to squeeze the juice out of the Orange.


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