Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim calls out forwards’ defense versus GT

Syracuse basketball fell further away from the 2021 Big Dance bubble on Saturday afternoon in a seven-point setback at Georgia Tech, and head coach Jim Boeheim yet again was anything but happy with the defensive performance of his forwards.

Boeheim ripped into forwards Alan Griffin, a junior, and Quincy Guerrier, a sophomore, following the team’s 85-71 loss to Duke in Durham, N.C., this past Monday evening. The ‘Cuse head coach bluntly said after that result that the Syracuse basketball “forwards are not playing defense.”

In his post-game Zoom call with media members on Saturday afternoon, after the Orange experienced an 84-77 defeat at the hands of the Yellow Jackets, Boeheim said that the ‘Cuse forwards – he didn’t mention Griffin or Guerrier specifically – simply “weren’t good” in this pivotal Atlantic Coast Conference clash with Georgia Tech.

Certainly, senior power forward/center Marek Dolezaj getting into foul trouble made life more challenging for the Syracuse basketball 2-3 zone.

And in all fairness, Griffin kept the ‘Cuse in the game in the first half, as he tallied 20 of his team-high 26 points before the intermission.

The Yellow Jackets (13-8, 9-6) ran out to a double-digit edge early on in this affair, but the Orange, buoyed by Griffin, stormed back and took a five-point advantage into halftime. Unfortunately, the ‘Cuse couldn’t keep the positive things going in the final 20 minutes.

Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim says the forwards must play better defense.

In the second half, Georgia Tech outscored the Orange (13-8, 7-7) by a count of 50-38 to emerge victorious. This is, unfortunately, a common theme for the ‘Cuse in the 2020-21 campaign.

The team often seems to have one really poor half on defense that does the Orange in. For Boeheim, the outcome really boiled down to two main factors, and they were interior defense and allowing the Yellow Jackets to score a bunch of points off of Syracuse basketball turnovers.

Over the course of 2020-21, the ‘Cuse has fared pretty well at taking care of the ball and limiting its careless miscues, but that was not the case versus Georgia Tech, especially in the second half.

Syracuse basketball also got totally crushed in the category of points in the paint. Boeheim said that a sizable amount of the Yellow Jackets’ interior scoring was due to the Orange forwards not playing well on defense. The forwards were standing around, watching plays and getting beat all over the place, Boeheim said.

Coach B knows his team and the game of basketball way better than I do, however, I do think that the entire collective ‘Cuse unit – including guards and centers, and not just the forwards – needs to vastly improve in the zone.

Georgia Tech is an excellent group, so the Orange’s loss to the Yellow Jackets on the road isn’t altogether surprising. However, it was a missed opportunity for the ‘Cuse to pick up a quadrant-one win.

From my perspective, at this juncture, the only manner in which Syracuse basketball can go dancing later on in March is to capture the ACC Tournament.

But the 2020-21 regular season isn’t quite over. Up next, the Orange will host North Carolina on Monday, March 1, beginning at 7 pm and with television coverage on ESPN.