MBB : GROWING PAINS: Young Syracuse’s shooting goes cold as Ohio State dominates inside
Nov. 22, 1:30 a.m.NEW YORK — For a second, Thad Matta thought his team was in trouble.
Just three minutes into the game, the Ohio State head coach watched Donte Greene bank in a fade-away 3-pointer to give Syracuse an early lead.
‘I thought, ‘My Gosh, we’re in for a long night,’ Matta said.
Not exactly. Syracuse wouldn’t hit another 3-pointer until 18 minutes later when Eric Devendorf broke the stretch with 19:11 to go in the second half.
A cold-shooting Syracuse was unable to compensate for a poor defensive effort on Wednesday night, and the young Orange suffered its first setback, losing its NIT Tipoff semifinal game to Ohio State, 79-65, in front of 8,388 at Madison Square Garden.
With the loss, No. 21 Syracuse (3-1) will play Washington, which lost to No. 16 Texas A&M, 77-63, in the first semifinal of the evening, on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
‘I think a couple of our young guys tried to do a little too much,’ SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘I think this was a learning experience coming down here, that we got a lot of things to learn about our team.’
Playing against a zone defense that seemed to tantalize the Orange guards into repeatedly lofting up 3′s, Syracuse went 5-for-25 from 3-point range and shot 36.2 percent from the field. Syracuse had shot 46.7 percent from deep in its previous three games this season.
Jonny Flynn had five of those missed treys in a forgettable evening in which he failed to register a point on six shot attempts, while tallying just two assists to three turnovers.
‘We got good shots,’ Boeheim said. ‘Jonny had real good looks. He was 6-for-7 the first game, shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line for three games, and he had wide open (shots). … All of Eric’s, except for I think one, were shots that he would normally take.’
Things didn’t go much better for Syracuse on the defensive end, as Ohio State (3-0) was able to penetrate into the lane frequently, racking up 32 points in the paint. Most of those points came from 7-foot freshman center Kosta Koufos, who led all scorers with 24 points.
Syracuse oscillated between zone and man-to-man the entire game trying to find an answer for Koufos and Ohio State, but neither seemed to work well.
‘We’re playing both defenses because neither one is that good really,’ Boeheim said. ‘We started out in zone and we were just didn’t get really any coverage at all and they made a couple 3′s … and then our man was at best, spotty.’
After heading into the break down eight, the Orange appeared rejuvenated early in the second half with the pro-Syracuse Garden crowd urging SU on, hustling to loose balls and cutting the lead to three. That would be as close as Syracuse would get on its cold shooting night, as both Flynn and Greene missed 3-pointers in an attempt to tie the game. Flynn seemed visibly frustrated at times in the second half at his inability to made the big play.
‘You get the wide open shots. You get the silly, cheap turnovers,’ Flynn said. ‘I let my team down today.’
Just as Syracuse’s shot went cold, the treys fell frequently for the Buckeyes. Ohio State made five straight 3′s during a six-minute stretch midway in the second half, capped by a Jamar Butler 3-pointer to extend the lead to 15 with 6:55 remaining.
Butler finished with four 3′s for the Buckeyes, which made 9 of its 20 attempts from beyond the arc.
For a Syracuse team that had relied of freshmen for 48.2 percent of its scoring during the team’s first three wins, getting just 28 out of 65 points from its first-year players proved insufficient. Donte Greene provided a team-best 21 points, 12 of those coming in the game’s first 10 minutes.
Eric Devendorf, Arinze Onuaku and Paul Harris each scored in double figures – Harris tallying another double-double with 10 points and 12 boards – but it wasn’t enough to save the Orange, which vowed to be more patient and look for closer shots on Friday against Washington.
‘I think we were just a little too impatient,’ Boeheim said. ‘I think when we were patient we got the ball inside just fine. … When we were patient we got some pretty good looks, and we got some good looks from the 3-point line that I would take, we just didn’t knock them down.’
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