Syracuse Basketball: Joe Girard III struggled at Rutgers, but was team loss

Syracuse basketball fell by 10 points late Tuesday to a really good Rutgers squad, and social media totally slammed Joe Girard III.

Man oh man, is Syracuse basketball sophomore point guard Joe Girard III taking a beating by a large contingent of Orange fans.

Without question, Girard is having a rough go in the 2020-21 campaign. So for ‘Cuse fanatics to express their frustration is fair game.

But let’s remember that we’re only four contests into the current stanza. Girard, as a freshman, put forth a really solid term, averaging 12.4 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per contest while shooting 34.8 percent from the field, 32.4 percent from beyond the arc and a stellar 89.4 percent from the charity stripe, per ESPN.

Fast-forward to the present, and through the ‘Cuse quartet of 2020-21 affairs, Girard is tallying 9.5 points, 4.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 turnovers a game, while hitting on 26.1 percent from the field, 30.3 percent from downtown and 66.7 percent from the free-throw, according to ESPN. Not great at all.

Still, in last Saturday’s 87-52 home win against Rider, Girard registered 21 points and five assists, which is excellent. Unfortunately, he followed that up with just three points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point land, in a 79-69 defeat at No. 21 Rutgers on Tuesday evening, although Girard did produce a half-dozen dimes.

It seems that Girard needs to find a consistent offensive rhythm, and he definitely needs to shape up on defense in the 2-3 zone. But my sense is that Orange fans calling for Girard to get relegated to the bench in favor of a starting backcourt that would entail freshman combo guard Kadary Richmond and junior shooting guard Buddy Boeheim need to slow their roll for at least a few more encounters.

Syracuse basketball didn’t fall to top-25 Rutgers solely because of Joe Girard III.

Richmond has shined in several meetings to date in 2020-21, but I’m not sure thrusting him into the starting rotation is the answer – at least not yet.

Due to Covid-19 protocols, the ‘Cuse (3-1) missed out on a ton of practice time prior to its season-opening victory over Bryant inside the Carrier Dome, and it’s not so easy for a freshman like Richmond to all of a sudden command the team, play 35-plus minutes a game, and have vital responsibility at the top of the Orange’s zone defense. That’s a lot to ask.

Girard, without question, needs to get back on track, but he does have a year of experience under his belt. I’m hopeful that he can turn things around, and quickly.

Versus the Scarlet Knights (4-0), a squad that will contend for a Big Ten Conference championship and proved exquisite on its own turf a stanza ago, Syracuse basketball got crushed on the boards, committed 12 turnovers and shot a mere 26.9 percent from 3-point range, per ESPN data.

In his defense, not all of that is on Girard. Head coach Jim Boeheim said after his team’s loss to Rutgers that Girard’s defense was bad, and that he forced up several tough attempts from downtown. He must do better, Boeheim said, and I believe that Girard will.