It was a tale of two halves for Syracuse against Memphis on Wednesday night. Syracuse was frustrated in the first half but improved in every asset of the game in the second to pull out a 74-57 win over the Memphis Tigers.
On offense, Memphis worked the ball well against the zone for open shots and on defense, their zone was more active than Syracuse's. Memphis hit seven of 15 three-pointers in the half, including Roburt Sallie who hit all four of his attempts. The Tigers' zone frustrated the Orange who turned it over 10 times in the half that led to 14 points.
The Orange's offense was fairly inept in the early going. I don't know how many lay-ups they missed but it had to approach double digits in the half. A few of them they were fouled on but still could have been converted. There was a stretch of over five minutes where they were held without a field goal. The Orange average almost 80 points a game but were lucky to end the half with 32 points after Andy Rautins hit a three with seconds remaining to tie the game.
The pace certainly favored Memphis but Syracuse picked it up in the second half. Memphis cooled off from three-point range and hit just two of their 14 three-pointers including none from Sallie. But the biggest difference was the aggressiveness on offense. Kris Joseph and Wesley Johnson drove to the basket and good things happened. Joseph was limited in the first half after picking up his third foul on what looked like a clean block with 5:20 remaining. In the second half he scored all 15 of his points on just five field goal attempts. He and Johnson combined to outscore the Tigers 29-25 after halftime. It was a lot like the run these two had against Seton Hall where they combined for 15 straight points.
There was definitely a moment that turned the tide for good in this game. With just under 14 minutes remaining Rautins turned the ball over in the backcourt and Elliott Williams went up for an uncontested dunk. He wanted to make a statement. He wanted to make the highlight reel. But instead he'll wind up on the bloopers. The ball hit off the back rim and flew out to Kris Joseph who took it the length of the floor, got fouled and converted two free throws. That was part of a Syracuse 10-1 run that really put the game away. Syracuse next plays at home against South Florida on Sunday.
Notes: Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku combined to go six of 16 from the line. I don't know if I've written this or just thought it, but if Onuaku goes to the line for a one-and-one or the backend of two, he should just peg the ball at the rim. The way he currently shoots he barely grazes the front of the rim leaving no chance for an offensive rebound. If he were to peg it at the rim it would be much closer to 50-50 and that's a lot better than 30%. Either get your free throw percentage above 40% or start pegging. For some reason I don't think Boeheim will implement my idea.