"Without a doubt, the worst offensive game I've ever seen. I mean, I can't say anything else, literally," said Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim."
Chris Bolden and Quinton Stephens both had opportunities in the final seconds to capture Tech's first conference victory of the season, but both attempts were unsuccessful, and the Syracuse Orange squeezed out a 46-45 victory on Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion.
"Obviously a tough one in terms of not being able to finish out the game," Head Coach Brian Gregory said. "We did a lot of good things in this game against a high quality team. It was just not enough, so it's disappointing."
Rakeem Christmas hit two free throws with 12 seconds left that proved to be the winning points for the Orange. Christmas wasn't as efficient as usual down low, but he still finished the game with 18 points, eight rebounds, and 40 minutes played after battling Demarco Cox all night in the paint. His two blocks and two steals correlate with the problems he gave the Tech offense from the middle of the defense in the famous Jim Boeheim zone scheme. Cox went just 2-10 from the field as he struggled to generate the room to finish in the post against Christmas.
The two teams combined to shoot 21-61 (34%) in the first half to total 55 points. Tech was just 1-8 from long-range, which is very costly against the zone defense that Syracuse utilizes.
Due to the poor shooting, neither team was able to form much of a run, and the game stayed within four points the entire first half.
The second half began with even worse offensive output than the first half, as the two teams combined to barely produce one point a minute for the first ten minutes. The two sides finished the second half shooting a combined 25% to total 30% for the night. Offense is fun.
After the two teams traded blows for the next few minutes, Charles Mitchell made two free throws with four minutes remaining to bring the Jackets within one at 44-43. Almost three minutes passed without a point being scored until Marcus Georges-Hunt made two more free throws to give Tech their final points and a 45-44 lead with 1:12 left in the game.
Mitchell was the bright spot for the Jackets tonight with 17 points and 11 rebounds (four offensive). He was the only Tech player in double figures and his 7-8 shooting from the free throw line kept them in the game at times when nobody else could buy a bucket.
Georges-Hunt, Cox, and Bolden combined to go 5-26 from the field in a game where any string of made field goals could've easily handed Tech the win. Against the zone defense, Georges-Hunt was unable to drive aggressively to the basket like he usually does. Cox was immensely effected by the length of the Orange down low, and he missed quite a few point-blank shots we're accustomed to him making. Bolden often had to throw up prayers towards the end of the shot clock when the offense was unable to create a quality shot. In the end, the vaunted Orange zone defense was too much for a poor shooting team to overcome.
Tech still has shown some signs of improvement this season by hanging with a few very tough opponents despite not playing their best basketball. With 19 more offensive rebounds tonight, the Jackets have proved they can outrebound anyone, and that will continue to be huge in allowing them to hang in against teams that would typically be winning fairly handily. The 19 offensive rebounds tonight only contributed to nine second-chance points, which will generally be much higher with that number of opportunities. Quite a few layups just didn't quite fall in this one, and the short-range misses cost Tech the game.
The basketball team will be back in action on Saturday when they travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest (8-7) in a battle of two teams searching for their first conference victory.
Were you able to watch the game? How much did you enjoy it..?