Syracuse Basketball: After another deflating loss, ‘Cuse in a really bad spot

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

Syracuse basketball is in jeopardy of falling under the .500 mark in the near future after the Orange fell by one point to America East Conference member Bryant, an NCAA Tournament team this past spring, by one point at the JMA Wireless Dome on Saturday night.

This heart-breaking setback to the Bulldogs (5-1) capped off an intense and really strange non-conference clash on the Hill. Bryant and the ‘Cuse (3-3) put forth virtually identical statistics across the board.

These two squads, which had only met once before in a one-point victory for Syracuse basketball over the Bulldogs at home in November of 2020, connected on the exact same number of field goals and 3-pointers this past Saturday in Central New York.

The only difference is that Bryant made one more free throw than Syracuse basketball. That’s it. The Orange actually won the battle on the glass, and many other statistical categories were basically even.

Syracuse basketball is now in the midst of a two-game losing streak.

The ‘Cuse fell to the Bulldogs, 73-72, in a tough, tough manner. An unfortunate incident with about seven minutes to go in the first half resulted in the ejection of Syracuse basketball freshman point guard Judah Mintz, several Bryant players and also some assistant coaches.

Mintz, who entered this encounter leading the Orange in scoring, would only get seven points versus the Bulldogs.

Senior shooting guard Joe Girard III, who was awful in the team’s 76-69 overtime setback against St. John’s last Tuesday evening at the 2022 Empire Classic in New York City, followed up that dreadful performance with another dud versus Bryant.

Against the Bulldogs, per ESPN stats, Girard hit on just 1-of-12 from the field and 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. He finished with five points.

With Girard off and Mintz out of the line-up in the second half, what enabled Syracuse basketball to claw back from a double-digit deficit in the game’s final 20 minutes was the play of freshman wing Justin Taylor, senior center Jesse Edwards and freshman forward Chris Bell.

Taylor had a team-high 25 points. Edwards tallied 12 points and a ridiculous 21 boards before fouling out. Bell hit numerous clutch jump shots, producing 14 points in total.

Sophomore forward Benny Williams was reportedly under the weather, and the broadcast team for this affair said that sophomore big man Mounir Hima, while available to play, had suffered an injury and didn’t practice on Friday.

All of these various factors led head coach Jim Boeheim to experiment with a variety of line-ups. Redshirt junior big man John Bol Ajak and freshman big man Peter Carey got more run than usual.

Right before the end of regulation, Girard made two free throws to put the Orange up by one point. But a Bryant player connected on a contested floater with under a second to go for the final outcome.

I credit the ‘Cuse for mounting a comeback, particularly with Mintz out, Girard struggling, and Williams under the weather.

However, Syracuse basketball is at 3-3 in this young 2022-23 season, with a blowout loss to Colgate at home, an overtime loss to St. John’s in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a one-point setback to Bryant at home.

Plus, up next for the Orange is a road date at Illinois this coming Tuesday night in the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Illinois is a top-20 group, and I can’t envision the ‘Cuse prevailing here.

So, after a 16-17 mark a stanza ago, it’s highly likely that Syracuse basketball will be at 3-4 through its first seven games of the 2022-23 campaign. I’m frustrated, to say the least.

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