Breaking down Syracuse’s offensive struggles in the last two games

After Syracuse’s back-to-back losses to the Duke Blue Devils (1/23) and the Pittsburgh Panthers (1/25), fans hit the panic button regarding their hopes for an enjoyable season at Syracuse.

We all knew the defense was probably not going to reach average levels until the end of the season, but watching the offense fall like it has over the past two games has been breathtaking.

In the past two games, Syracuse has shot 32.8 percent from the field on 43-131 shots from the floor and 18.3 percent from range on 11-60 shots and just 53.5 percent from the charity strip.

All of these percentages rank below Orange’s team shooting percentages on the season so far. In 20 games, Syracuse shot 44.5 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from three and 71.6 percent from the charity strip.

The question now is, what was it in those last two contests that created such problems for Syracuse offensively?

Rob Kinnan – USA TODAY Sports

For starters, Duke and Pitt are two very physical teams with disjointed defensive ability. Duke held opponents to an average of 39.7% shooting from the field and 26.5% from range. Pitt, meanwhile, limited his opponents to 41.4% from the field and 33.2% from range.

While Pitt definitely allows opponents a bit more slack than Duke defensively, those numbers don’t really tell how they contained Syracuse in their Tuesday night game after losing the previous game 77-61 to the Orange two years ago. weeks.

Pittsburgh, while ineffective at times, is a very physical team with plenty of length and strength in their lineup. Forward John Hugley, the Panthers’ leading scorer, is 6-foot-9 and weighs 280 pounds. Forward Mouhamadou Gueye weighs 200 pounds and is 6ft 10in tall with a wingspan of 7ft 3in. The rest of their five starters are at least 6-foot-4 and weigh 200 pounds.

Overall, Pitt is a great physical team, and when they start rolling they’re hard to stop, as fans saw on Tuesday night. The Panthers finished the contest with four double-digit players and still found a way to beat Orange by shooting just 34.5% from the field and 26.9% from beyond the arc while trailing Syracuse for the entire the first half.

Duke, meanwhile, is just as tall and physical as Pitt, but had more control over the contest early in the game. The Blue Devils dominated Syracuse in both halves of the game, mostly through and exposed Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in the process.

Syracuse vs. Duke

Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

However, the real main factor behind Syracuse’s offense struggling so poorly is that Duke and Pitt are closing in on the shooters, almost every play, something Syracuse has struggled with on defense all season.

The only way to contain an offensive scheme as heavy as Syracuse’s this season is to force shooters to pick bad shots. Both Pitt and Duke used this technique to perfection against the Orange and won through their relentless efforts to challenge and force the Orange into poor shot selection.

Syracuse currently holds a 9-11 record and a 3-6 conference record in 20 games. They’re tied for 8th in the ACC conference standings with just 11 games left in their season, with 10 of the 11 being conference games. These next 11 games will determine Syracuse’s fate for the 2021-22 season.

The only way Syracuse will be able to move up the conference standings and potentially secure a berth in a postseason tournament is if their offense can shoot with volume at an effective pace. This is only possible if Syracuse can set up other shooters on the team besides Buddy Boeheim in favorable situations. If the offense can rely on other players on the team to shoot the ball effectively, it will take more pressure off Buddy and make him even more effective in the process. Can Syracuse accomplish that feat, only time will tell, but these last two games will hopefully ignite a fire within this team that they desperately need to have a strong run over these 11 games to close out their regular season.

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