Syracuse basketball doomed by rebounding, turnovers in ACC tourney - ‘disappointed’

Syracuse basketball got bounced in its first ACC Tournament game, as the 'Cuse was hurt by rebounding and turnover woes.
Syracuse basketball got bounced in its first ACC Tournament game, as the 'Cuse was hurt by rebounding and turnover woes. / Greg Fiume/GettyImages

Syracuse basketball fell to N.C. State by 18 points in the ACC Tournament’s second round on Wednesday night, and head coach Adrian Autry says that disappointing result boiled down to rebounding and turnovers.

The boards, for many years, have proven a challenging arena for the ‘Cuse, although in seasons past under former head coach Jim Boeheim, Syracuse basketball was primarily utilizing a zone defense.

Experts often note that rebounding out of the zone can prove tricky, since defenders are guarding a space on the floor and not a particular opposing player.

However, Autry during the 2023-24 season has relied a lot on man-to-man defense, while also sprinkling in zone here and there. And yet this term, the Orange has still mightily struggled on the glass.

Those struggles were readily apparent when the No. 7 seed ‘Cuse battled the No. 10 seed Wolfpack at the ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C.

Syracuse basketball, in its loss to N.C. State, committed far too many miscues.

On the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Web site, the Orange ranked last in the league in rebounding margin, last in offensive rebounding percentage, and No. 14 (of 15 teams) in defensive rebounding margin. That’s a huge obstacle to overcome.

For some context, though, the ‘Cuse has been starting sophomore Maliq Brown at center for some time now, and while he made the All-ACC defensive team, he’s more of a power forward. Physical, bruising centers have a size advantage over Brown.

It’s also true that the Orange’s starting center earlier in 2023-24 got injured and only appeared in 14 games. What’s more, Autry hasn’t played Syracuse basketball reserve centers much at all this stanza.

But let’s not put this all on Brown. Everyone on the roster, including the guards and forwards, must rebound better.

When N.C. State pulled away from the ‘Cuse (20-12, 11-9 in the ACC) with a massive run in the second half to ultimately prevail 83-65 inside Capital One Arena, the Wolfpack had a 40-31 edge in total rebounds.

N.C. State corralled 17 offensive rebounds and had a big-time advantage in second-chance points, 20-7. That was problematic for the Orange, Autry says.

The other main issue is that Syracuse basketball is often proficient at turning its foes over and then converting those mistakes into points.

But the opposite occurred on Wednesday evening. Orange players were careless with the ball, committing a whopping 19 turnovers. N.C. State, in turn, capitalized to the tune of a 30-9 edge over the ‘Cuse in points off turnovers. The Wolfpack also led Syracuse basketball 19-8 in fast-break points.

In his post-game press conference after the ACC Tournament setback, Autry said that his team’s rebounding woes and turnovers, which led to a lot of second-chance points, points off turnovers and fast-break points for N.C. State, proved too many obstacles for the Orange to overcome.

“We wanted to play better,” the ‘Cuse head coach said. “We’re disappointed.”

Autry, in the post-game presser, was asked by several media members to reflect on 2023-24, a term in which the first-year head coach guided the Orange to 20 regular-season wins for the first time in a decade.

Autry said that it was difficult to do a lot of reflecting while he and his players were still processing their disappointing loss in the ACC Tournament, an outcome that ensures Syracuse basketball will miss its third straight NCAA Tournament.

However, as Autry has noted on various occasions, he says he’s proud of his players for how they’ve battled, through ups and downs, all season long.

Autry says he’s loved coaching this group. While it’s true that all college basketball programs face adversity in one way or another, Syracuse basketball in 2023-24 has dealt with a lot.

Injuries to multiple key players. One of the team’s veterans being dismissed from the program. A tough non-conference schedule. A roster primarily consisting of sophomores. A first-year head coach replacing a Hall of Famer.

This loss in the ACC Tournament – another early exit from this annual event for the ‘Cuse – stings, but Autry did note that if Syracuse basketball is selected to the 2024 NIT, any time that you have a chance to play in the post-season, “I think you have to take it.”

Naturally, Orange fans wanted to see SU in March Madness. I do think it’s comical that some of my fellow fans, on social media after the setback to N.C. State, were saying that Autry should be fired.

Lol. Are you kidding me? He’s a first-year and a first-time head coach who led Syracuse basketball to 20 regular-season wins for the first instance in a long time. The ‘Cuse was forecast to finish at No. 10 in the ACC standings and finished at No. 7.

Ahead of 2023-24, some “experts” projected that Syracuse basketball would finish well below .500 in the regular season. The Orange went 20-11 overall, including a solid 9-2 in the non-conference docket and 11-9 in conference contests.

Autry said in his post-game presser that his players are a fiercely competitive group. They worked hard to improve every week and every month, he says. His players, following tough losses, always bounced back, wanted to get better and wanted to win.

“They had a lot to prove. I had a lot to prove. We all had a lot to prove,” Autry says.

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