Syracuse fell to 12-3 (1-1) with a disappointing loss to Wake Forest 8-6 (1-1) on Wednesday night. In the end, the Orange couldn’t overcome two long field goal droughts, guard Tyus Battle’s foul trouble and losing the rebounding battle.
Why Syracuse lost
Syracuse’s inability to score the ball at times was exposed as the Orange didn’t score a field goal during a 6:08 stretch in the first half and failed to make a bucket for over 5:55 in the second half. Tyus Battle was forced to sit for almost 3 minutes in the second half with 4 fouls that partially coincided with the second half scoring drought. Syracuse was humbled on the boards losing the rebounding margin 38-29. Wake Forest guard Bryant Crawford did a great job attacking the middle of the zone and constantly had cutters finding open spaces for easy short-range opportunities. Wake Forest finished the game with 20 assists, 7 above their season average.
The Orange didn’t help themselves out of the gate with 4 turnovers in the first 3:59 of the game. Tyus Battle had 2 turnovers during the stretch. Wake Forest big man Doral Moore slipped behind the Syracuse zone a few times for easy alley oops early in the game.
Syracuse went down 16-9 early after Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods hit a floater while driving in the lane. Woods, the Demon Deacons leading scorer, banged his knee during the first half and did not return to action.
Orange fans finally received their answer in regards to freshman forward Bourama Sibide’s status for the rest of the season as he entered the game for about 3 minutes around the 13:25 mark of the 1st half. He recorded 1 rebound and looked pretty good running up and down the floor.
Coach Jim Boeheim provided an update on Sidibe’s status after the game, “He’s going to play. He’s healthy enough. We just got to spot him in there and get some time.”
Wake Forest’s stingy defense held Syracuse to no field goals from the 14:04 mark to the 7:56 mark in the first half.
But Syracuse bounced back and finished the half on a 15-4 run behind the play of guard Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu. Unfortunately, Tyus Battle made a mistake and fouled Mitchell Wilbekin on a 3-point shot with 26.9 seconds left in the half. Wilbekin made the 3 pointer and the free throw.
Syracuse took a 32-29 lead going into the half and Frank Howard led all scorers with 11 points and 3 three pointers.
Wake Forest started the second half with more great passing and dissected the zone with great cuts for more easy looks.
The Orange went on another scoring drought in the second half. Syracuse didn’t make a field goal from the 14:34 mark to the 8:39 mark. During the field goal drought, Battle picked up his 4th foul with 12:55 remaining and didn’t return until the 9:44 mark. Battle’s absence hurt the Orange from a scoring and leadership perspective and forced rarely used freshman guard Howard Washington into action.
A big turning point in the game was Wake Forest guard Mitchell Wilbekin’s three pointer with 9:23 left to put Wake Forest up 46-44. You could feel the momentum shift in the Demon Deacons favor. Guard Frank Howard would answer with a 3 pointer and a long 2 pointer to put the Orange up 51-46 with 7:01 to play but Demon Deacons guard Bryant Crawford answered with back to back 3 pointers from the same spot on the floor to put Wake Forest up 53-52. Crawford’s play was invaluable especially in the second half. He had 14 points and three 3 pointers in the second half and played the central role inside the zone on offense.
Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning elaborated on the team’s strategy to exploit the middle of the zone after the game, “They (Syracuse) are so long and athletic and most of the time when somebody catches it at the nail of the free throw area they (Syracuse) fan out with their perimeter athletes and their center guards whoever is there. We thought if we could get a (ball) handler there, somebody who could make good decisions, who can turn around and shoot it, we could get an advantage of some sort.”
Freshman forward Oshae Brissett hit a 3 pointer, his first since the first half of the Buffalo game on December 19, to tie the game at 59 with 3:29 left. Battle disappointed during the final few minutes of contest. With the game tied at 61, Battle missed a 3 pointer and nobody got back on defense for the Orange which led to an easy two for the Demon Deacons. Battle turned the ball over on the baseline on the next possession and sophomore guard Brandon Childress hit a floater to extend the lead to 65-61 lead. Battle drew a foul on a drive with 49 seconds but missed the front end of the 1 and 1.
An ill-advised pass from Howard was stolen with less than 30 seconds left which essentially ended the game for the Orange. Wake Forest freshman Olivier Sarr made 5-6 free throws in the final 23.4 seconds to ice a 73-67 win.
This was a very winnable game for the Orange and the loss drops them to 1-1 in the ACC. Notre Dame visits the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Syracuse needs to take care of business at home against the Irish or could be facing a 1-4 start in the ACC with road games against #8 Virginia and #24 Florida State following Saturday’s match-up.