It was a season that started with tremendous upside for the Syracuse Orange.
The way things have been going of late, it was bound to end on a down note.
And that’s how it did end. The Orange struggled to get anything going on offense against the Dayton Flyers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 55-53 in the third round matchup in the south region.
The Orange had lost five of their last eight games heading into this one, but looked strong in their first tournament game against Western Michigan. Against the Flyers, they came out very slow, scoring just 18 points in the first half and shooting just 7-23. Despite that, they went into the break down by just two.
The second half was a struggle to start off as well, as the Orange went 0-5 to start. After going down 35-30 in the second half, they went on a 10-2 run to take a 40-37 lead and the offense started to turn things around. When they had the lead, they couldn’t stop Dayton from responding, who then went on a 10-2 run of their own and led 47-42 with 3:42 left in the game. The Orange closed it to a one point game, but a quick 5-0 run for the Flyers made it 52-46 and the Orange had to act fast. That is when they looked to Ennis, who made a couple of key drives and free throws to bring it to a 54-53 game. Dyshawn Pierre, who had made both of his free throws on the last possession split his next two, giving the Orange a chance for the win, but Ennis’ three that looked good hit the back iron and out, ending their season.
Ennis led the Orange with 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. C.J. Fair capped off his career with his fourth double-double on the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds on just 4-14 shooting. Michael Gbinije added eight points off the bench and Pierre led the way for the Flyers with 14 points and six rebounds.
The Orange had multiple chances at the end of the game to make a move and take the lead. With 14 seconds left, Jordan Sibert stepped on the line in a double team, giving the Orange possession. Ennis was given a screen by Rakeem Christmas, but instead of driving to the basket like he had been on the last couple of possessions, he pulled up for a jumper that was no good. He then missed that potential game-winning three to end the game.
As a team, the Orange shot just 38 percent from the field and went 0-10 from three. That was the first time they have gone without a made three-pointer in an NCAA tournament game since 1994. They also didn’t make a shot from outside of the paint until their was 10:23 remaing in the second half. The Flyers shot 41 percent from the field and made seven of their 16 three-point attempts, which was the difference in the game, especially since they struggled from the free-throw line, making just 10 of their 18 attempts.
Jerami Grant had a rough game for the Orange. He fouled out and scored four points while only taking three shots. Trevor Cooney also struggled, as he went 1-6 from the field and 0-4 from beyond the arc.
It was an interesting season for the Orange to say the least. The Flyers will play the winner of the Kansas and Stanford game for the right to go to the Elite 8 on Thursday.