Syracuse 3-point slump leads to offensive adjustments

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first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Joseph Girard III had driven, spun and faded away from North Carolina State defenders during Syracuse’s latest loss. He scored 30 points with Elijah Hughes hurt, making Feb. 11 Girard’s best collegiate performance.But, sitting in front of his locker postgame, Girard rued the misses. SU’s other shooters could relate. The Orange fell, 79-74, to NC State in the Carrier Dome, after a three-for-18 showing from 3. Each miss represented Syracuse’s current offensive limit.“We fought hard,” Girard said, “but if I made even two more open 3s? That’s six points and we would’ve won.”In recent weeks, opponents have adapted to the Orange’s 3-laden attack, SU players and coaches said. Defenders are more aggressive, challenging the trio of Girard, Hughes and leading-shooter Buddy Boeheim (84 3s). They’ve also doubled ball screens and hand-offs that establish space for the Orange.In SU’s last eight contests, it’s uncharacteristically converted 28.2% from 3. The drop-off didn’t correlate with a larger offensive issue. Three-point production has dipped steadily before cratering on Feb. 11 against the Wolfpack, and Syracuse’s (14-10, 7-6 Atlantic Coast) 16.7%-rate against NC State stuck out like a sore thumb.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textRoshan Fernandez | Asst. Digital EditorSyracuse converts 32.2% of its 3s in conference play (seventh-best in the ACC), but it hasn’t eclipsed that mark since Jan. 15. With three losses in four games pressuring their tournament chances, the Orange will need to find their mark, possibly without Hughes, at No. 8 Florida State. Though a top-15 defense, per KenPom, the Seminoles allow the third-most 3s in the conference.“Teams are going to keep that adjustment,” Buddy said. “It’s working. We gotta figure out how to do better.”Buddy and Girard slogged through their 18 attempts against the Wolfpack, and the rare open look still rimmed out. Quincy Guerrier shot zero 3s for the third-straight game in a career-high 37 minutes. He had a few opportunities but opted against them. Of the backup guards — Brycen Goodine and Howard Washington – only Goodine played four minutes. But neither have shot many from behind the arc this season as they’ve followed coach directives. SU’s relied on the Hughes-Buddy-Girard trio, and they’re the only ones consistently given a green light.While Buddy couldn’t establish a scoring rhythm through tighter defense, he facilitated. The ball hung near the elbow and corner, and on one possession Buddy shielded his defender from the ball and bounced a pass under the rim to Guerrier, who finished with 16. The offense pivoted inside by necessity.In its last four contests, SU has averaged 33 points in the paint. But after losing to Duke, Orange head coach Jim Boeheim said it’s “not enough.”“We’re not really making enough shots at the 3-point line,” Boeheim said, “and that’s something that’s important for us to win these kinds of games.”At the start of the calendar year, the Orange’s success was linked to their 3-point rate. They were 3-5 in games with fewer than 10 made 3s. But starting Jan. 11 against Virginia, they won five-straight. SU found different ways to win and adjusted well against lesser opponents. Three-point attempts came more from two-man games — a temporary reprieve run well by Hughes and Girard — or fast-break runs.In the half court, the pick-and-roll failed to create clean shots from behind the arc. Boeheim said defenses rushed SU shooters. Eventually, it caught up in the loss column. Syracuse hit just six deep balls when it lost to Duke despite 88 points overall. Then, Wake Forest threatened an upset with its match-up zone.SU’s shooters have shown glimmers of their old 3-point prowess. They’ve connected on the occasional tightly contested, crowd-popping heave before hitting more in succession. Buddy ended a scoring drought against Wake Forest by hitting a deep 3 with a hand in his face. Later in the frame, Syracuse went on a 14-0 run propelled by four 3s.After SU’s season opener, when it registered a then-low of five made 3s against Virginia, assistant coach Gerry McNamara instituted a circle-motion offense. It led to a boost in nonconference play. And with Hughes’ long-term status unclear, another strategic shift could key a turnaround.Down three against NC State in the second half, McNamara watched Girard bring the ball forward. Buddy ran down the right side of the court, and Marek Dolezaj filled the gap. As they crossed half court, Buddy and Girard simultaneously pointed toward Dolezaj. The forward then screened for Buddy, who caught a Girard pass for a 3. From the bench, McNamara stood up and fist bumped.“We can do it in multiple ways,” Girard said. “I just think if we shoot like we did before we can be dangerous.” Comments Published on February 12, 2020 at 11:26 pm Contact Nick: | @nick_a_alvarezlast_img

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