Even after 72-46 win over Pittsburgh, SU isn’t thinking about the future

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ PITTSBURGH — Any other game it would have been surprising, but in the last five minutes of the first half, Syracuse and Pittsburgh had already entered the motions of a blowout. Quincy Guerrier backed into the rim with his dribble, and Pittsburgh defenders did all they can to keep him out of the paint. They failed. Guerrier got in easily, but his hook shot fired long. On the other side of the rim, Pitt defenders paid no mind to SU center Bourama Sidibe. Sidibe caught the miss like an alley-oop on the weak side and slammed it down, unbothered. “I mean, he shouldn’t get an assist,” Sidibe said, laughing. Guerrier disagreed. Sidibe strolled back like he does this all the time — even though he doesn’t. And his team that’s rarely been dominant continued to pour it on.A month ago, a promising Syracuse (16-12, 9-8 Atlantic Coast) team capped a five-game win streak with a eight-point win over the Panthers (15-14, 6-12) in the Carrier Dome. Wednesday, a Syracuse team with little hope left in its season played its 72-49 win not even close. The Orange got any shot they wanted, swarmed the paint and evaporated the issues that normally arise. Still, players said after the game that Syracuse isn’t thinking about the NCAA Tournament. That mindset is futile. “We are not thinking about the future now,” Sidibe said. “If we start thinking about the future, we’re not going to do the right thing. So, we’re thinking about the next game.”The Orange have no more chances to prove themselves in the regular season. This season is now about the next one, the upcoming ACC tournament. This win, even by a margin of this size, won’t change that.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter Syracuse’s second loss in the Barclay’s Center on Nov. 29, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim declared that it would take 15 to 20 games for SU to reach its potential. After Wednesday’s loss to Louisville, the trial had reached its conclusion. “We’re not that good,” Boeheim said on Feb. 19. Pittsburgh promised stingy defense. In the first few minutes, active hands poked the ball away from the Orange on several occasions. But it didn’t last long, and with physical defense came early fouls. The Orange entered the bonus with 7:40 remaining in the half. And as Pittsburgh gave SU more space, the Orange converted. Layup finishes through traffic mimicked the defensive intensity of pregame shootaround. SU’s least reliable offensive threat looked among its best in the first half. An SU team that has shot poorly (even fewer often) from outside in recent games drained multiple with plenty of time to release.The second half provided more of the same. Pittsburgh’s first drive on its first possession was a spark of aggressiveness, yet Pitt guard Xavier Johnson coughed it right into Sidibe’s seemingly unknowing arms. Sidibe finished with five steals and four blocks. Elijah Hughes, who scored 25 points, continued to pour it on for the Orange. Later in the half, the Panthers pushed forward to press the Orange in the backcourt. Marek Dolezaj took it the length of the court and lobbed a pass to Sidibe for an uncontested finish.“Everyone was active,” Guerrier said. “Everyone was going to the rim.”The game started as a battle between two teams with near identical records, and it ended far earlier than expected, fans starting to file out of the stadium at the 10-minute mark. This game won’t boost SU toward a tournament bid — it still needs one last shot at a top team. Instead it pushes SU deeper into “no man’s land” between the bad and good ACC teams. If close losses had gone the other way, the Orange could be a tournament team boosting its seed. But this hill was too steep to climb against the Panthers.After a Syracuse rebound, Pittsburgh’s Johnson stole the ball near the corner of the home team’s side of the court. A crowd that hadn’t buzzed in minutes of game time released a repressed cheer. Johnson drove into the lane, pump-faked one, two, three times and then found the shot he liked. But his shot was too strong, his layup misfired over Hughes and the ball went back to the Orange.The crowd sighed, and Johnson echoed the dishevelment with a few shakes of his head. He looked up and turned a trot into a slow jog, trying to slow a Syracuse team at a different speed yet somehow at a similar spot in its season.“Any win you can snag in this league is big for us,” Hughes said. “We’re at the final stretch of our season and we’re going to try to snag as many as we can.” Comments Published on February 26, 2020 at 9:07 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcClearylast_img

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *