Another year another late January swoon for the Syracuse Orange. The 2008-09 version dropped their third straight game tonight, losing 100-94 to the Providence Friars in the Dunkin Donuts Center. The Orange, playing without Andy Rautins and essentially without Arinze Onuaku, also played without any defensive intensity, surrendering 56 points to the Friars in the second half.
While they were certainly playing short-handed, the players they were missing, Andy and Arinze, do more damage on the offensive end than defensively, so using their absence as an excuse for the loss would be a cop out. The real culprits were season long problems like turnovers and a lack of defensive effort. It's a shame too because a superb 35 point, 6 assist effort from Jonny Flynn was wasted.
The Orange currently sit at 5-4 in conference play and if things keep going down this path, it wouldn't surprise me if they end up under .500 in league when everything is all said and done. Notre Dame is the only decent team they've beaten in conference and we've since learned, they aren't athletic enough to be an upper echelon Big East team.
There were a ton of things about this game that pissed me off, in no particular order, they are:
As I mentioned above, there was a stark lack of defensive intensity from the output. The zone was shredded by Providence's shooters and ball movement. After playing it ineffectively all game, SU finally did go man to man and the Friar guards beat them off the dribble, leaving easy opportunities for Providence's big men.
22 games into the season and they still can't stop anyone. The zone is not active and with a less size on the wings, it's easy to shoot over. They aren't forcing turnovers (Providence only had 11 tonight) and right now the defensive strategy appears to be "hope teams miss" - like Memphis did. That's not good enough.
I've been a staunch defender of Devendorf on this blog - but tonight was the worst 27 point performance I've ever seen in my life. While he scored 27, he must have been responsible for about 40 of the Friars points. He had NINE - yes NINE turnovers and racked up a grand total of zero assists. On the defensive end you would have had to put a mirror under his nose to see if he was breathing. In the zone his hands were at his side, in man, his feet were glued to the floor.
Champ texted me at the end of the game, noting Devo almost had double-double and I have to hand it to him, 27 points and 9 turnovers isn't something you see often, so give the guy credit there. A 0-9 assist to turnover ratio is not good enough.
I love the guy, but I honestly understand why he doesn't play more. He has an uncanny knack of making the great hustle play - and then instantly negating it by doing something stupid, which he did again tonight. Whether its a killer turnover or a dumb foul, he's always got something up his sleeve. This team needs his hustle and energy, but he racked up 4 turnovers in just 16 minutes of play. That's not good enough.
I am loathe to criticize Boeheim - he's a hall of fame coach with a national championship and a gold medal - but the fact that he couldn't get last year's group to guard anyone, coupled with the fact that this year's group has no desire to guard anyone is on him. The last time SU won a tournament game was 2004, they haven't even played in a tourney game since 2006 - and unless he fixes this, it might be 2010 before they get back. You can't beat anyone if you can't stop anyone, and when the beloved zone isn't working, its OK to change defenses. Right now JB can't get SU to guard anyone and isn't making in-game adjustments - and that's not good enough.
The team now has a much needed week off and it's certainly coming at the right time, because there's a lot of work that needs to be done and not much time to do it. My head hurts.
PHOTO: Steven Senne, AP