I hate losing to Pittsburgh. I realize that it’s bound to happen now and then, and to be perfectly honest, it happens with pretty decent regularity, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I hate pretty much everything about the Pittsburgh Panthers (though as it happens, the city is underrated). So imagine my disappointment with the 72-61 loss tonight for the Syracuse University basketball team.
I admit that I came into this one expecting a loss. Syracuse has certainly not looked as good as a 10-3 record would indicate, and they certainly haven’t looked as good as those games against Texas A&M and UConn down in the Bahamas. I was pleasantly surprised by the team’s fight though the middle, oh, 25 minutes of the game. As for the other 15, which unfortunately came at the beginning and the end? Don’t get me started.
Syracuse is now 10-4 after dropping this game to the Fightin’ Jamie Dixons, who absolutely dominated on the glass. Because of course they did, considering that’s been a trend all year for the Orange, not just in losses, but even in a couple of the team’s wins. I’ve said it before and it still stands: this team is just poorly constructed. There’s no depth at positions of need, and you’ve got certain players playing out of position out of both necessity and the coaching staff being stubborn.
Yes, I’m talking about forcing Michael Gbinije into the point guard spot with that whole “being stubborn” thing.
Pitt held a 47-28 edge on the glass, and at times it seemed like Syracuse would have been just as well off standing to the side and giving the Panthers layups, considering the layups came anyway on put-backs and, far too often, fouls. Dajuan Coleman only scored two points and grabbed a single rebound before fouling out according to the early box score, and as has been the case all year, there’s just nowhere to turn when the 6-foot-9 center either plays poorly or gets into foul trouble.
Tyler Lydon got beat up a bit on the glass, and continues to be unselfish to a fault. He finished with five points, four rebounds, and three assists, but passed up several wide open looks. Trevor Cooney actually hit 3-of-5 three pointers, but made some truly baffling decisions, including one of the most facepalm-inducing sequences in recent memory when he launched up a wild 25-footer that didn’t come anywhere close to the rim, failed to get back on defense, and ultimately fouled a player on a breakaway for a pair of free throws.
Michael Gbinije struggled from the field, scoring 14 points and handing out seven assists but hitting just 4-of-12 shots while missing five of his 10 free throw attempts. Malachi Richardson, meanwhile, continued to struggle from three point range (1-of-4) but looked good taking the ball to the rack on his way to 10 points. Tyler Roberson finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, but while those numbers look good on paper, he once again disappeared for long stretches.
Don’t get me started on the now complete disappearance of Kaleb Joseph, who didn’t play a single second tonight while Chino Obokoh did. I’ll be flat out stunned if Joseph is still at Syracuse next season. Now, I’m not saying that Joseph is an All-Conference talent or anything, but he’s certainly got the ability to provide a few minutes here and there to allow Trevor Cooney to sit and Michael Gbinije to slide over to the shooting guard position. Frank Howard only got a couple minutes, so it’s not like he was taking any time away from Joseph, either.
From early in the season, this always had the feel of a team that would wind up in the 17-19 win range, and I’m still thinking that’s probably accurate. We always knew it would be a tough season for the Orange with such a short bench, complete lack of depth in the paint, the suspension for Jim Boeheim, and an always tough ACC slate. Now we just have to live with the results and hope that the Orange can regain some of the form they showed against A&M and Connecticut.
But man, I still just really hate losing to Pittsburgh.