Syracuse's Dome of Doom

LaDontae Henton

The Providence Friars (14-12, 6-8) were riding high on a four game win streak when they entered Syracuse, New York to take on the 8th ranked Orange Wednesday night. Despite carrying a tremendous amount of momentum from a previous win over Notre Dame, and a fair amount of media buzz, the Friars hit a brick wall and dropped the Big East contest with Syracuse, 84-59.

Record Setter: After setting his school's record in the game against Notre Dame, Vincent Council again made history. This time he shattered the record for Big East assists, which was formerly held by Syracuse guard Sherman Douglas at 426 conference assists. Council needed only three to surpass Douglas, but recorded seven total for the game.

Despite a record setting night for the senior point guard, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim (who was also Douglas' coach) didn't offer a lot of praise for Council. "Sherman only played three years. His freshman year, he had somebody named (Pearl) Washington ahead of him so he didn't get to play that year. I don't think anybody would break his record in three years." Despite refusing to offer a well-deserved congratulations, Council's feat will remain in the history books and be remembered as one of the greatest Friar accomplishments ever.

Brick by Brick: Providence has historically not played Syracuse well, especially in the Dome. The Friars are 3-21 all time while visiting the Orange, and their last win at the Dome came over a decade ago in the 1998-99 season. One of the key reasons for these losses is the poor display of shooting.

Wednesday night Providence shot an abysmal 34% from the field, which includes a heart wrenching first half that saw the Friars go 29% overall from the field and 0-6 from three point territory. In the previous five losses the Friars have only eclipsed 40% shooting once, in the 2009-2010 season the Friars shot 43% from the field but still lost 85-68. Of the past six losses back to the 1998-99 season, Wednesday night's contest marked the worst shooting for the Friars. Key shooters Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts were both limited to just 3-10 from the field, including 2-9 three point attempts for Cotton. LaDontae Henton and Council set the pace for the Friars with 15 points each on 7-19 and 7-18 shooting respectively, but it wasn't enough to get the Friars offense going.

One of the reasons the Friars struggled from the field was due to the Syracuse defense. While they did play the zone (as would be expected of any Orange team) Syracuse did a tremendous job smothering the two key scorers for the Friars. Batts and Cotton both looked pressured and frustrated with the defense, which would collapse in on Cotton at the key and in the corners (before he could get his three point shot off) and was able to guard Batts' post moves as well as his mid-range jumpers. The well-executed double teams did a good job ensuring the players either wouldn't get shots off or wouldn't be able to kick the ball out easily. This disrupted the Friar offense incredibly well in the first half, and was the result of a 31-4 run in the last ten minutes of the first stanza.

Not surprisingly, the total assists suffered from the poor shooting and the Friars collectively only had 11 assists to speak of at the final buzzer. They turned the ball over 14 times comparatively, but Syracuse didn't take advantage of this as well as they could've and only had 17 points from the 14 Friar errors.

Board Bangers: If there's one area the Friars have shown they excel in, it's on the glass. Syracuse outrebounded the Friars 39-35, but the Friars grabbed 16 total offensive rebounds, allowing them to convert those into 20 second chance points. Henton grabbed a bulk of the boards and logged 13 in by the end of the game, the most of any player. While Syracuse did grab 31 of their 39 boards off the Friars' glass, this didn't prevent Providence from making an impact on their performance off the boards.

Providence's strong suit this season has been crashing the boards, especially the offensive glass. Doubling the offensive rebounding efforts of the Orange is an impressive feat, but the conversion rate wasn't that great. Statistically speaking, they had 1.25 points for every offensive rebound they had against the Orange, but the Orange got 1.87 points for every one of theirs against the Friars (the Orange only had 8 offensive rebounds and 15 second chance points). Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but given the lopsided score the Friars needed to take advantage of every offensive rebound they got. If they were to have converted a basket for every offensive rebound they would have had 32 additional points rather than 20, which would have bumped the Friars to 71 total points. Obviously changing this one variable during the game wouldn't have allowed the Friars a win (Syracuse still amassed 84 points, leaving the Friars 14 shy of a win), but it would have allowed the Friars to maintain some momentum during the game.

That said, this isn't a game of "what if" and if the Friars expect to win they need to strive for this type of play. Having a perfect conversion ratio in second chance attempts isn't something that should be expected, but it does speak to the bigger point that if the Friars are given an opportunity they need to capitalize on it as best as possible.

Explaining Syracuse's Offense: Syracuse shot incredibly well for the game, going 30-53 overall which was good for 56.6% shooting. A first half performance of 63% from the field (including 66% from three point territory) contributed to this effort, but why? Was it poor defense on the Friars part, or was it simply a matter of a great team making great shots?

Before we even explain the outside shooting, two areas need to be looked at: points in the paint and points off fast breaks. Total, Syrcause amassed 68 of its 84 points in these two areas. Syracuse dropped 46 in the paint and 22 came off fast breaks, but it's not as simple as a hammering in the paint. While Providence did grab 16 of their own boards Syracuse snagged 31 off the Providence glass, which allowed Syracuse to move the ball up quickly for an easy layup or dunk. This helped contribute not only to the 31-4 run the Orange went on in the last 10 minutes of the first half, but also add to the total points that Syracuse collected in the paint and in transition, essentially getting a "double dip" in the stat sheet.

However, for the sake of analytics let's assume we take away the points in the paint that were a result of fast breaks - you're still left with 24 points in the paint. That is a result of great ball movement and penetration. Sure, Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas only finished with six points, where the assumed points in paint would be generated, but it was backcourt players Michael Carter-Williams (who had 8 points off layups alone) and Brandon Triche (who had three layups) that helped make a presence in the paint.

And it's hard to overlook the performances of C.J. Fair and James Southerland, both frontcourt players adding 20 points for the game. C.J. Fair helped add a presence in the paint by hammering away dunks and layups (he had a collective four), but outside the paint was where Southerland made his 7-8 shooting impact. Only two of his seven total baskets came from dunks - the rest was from shooting outside of the paint. Once he got hot he couldn't miss.

This wasn't a matter of Friar defense so much either. The Friars played scrappy, as they have been, and once again trusted their man to man defense that had been giving them so much success, and were reliable when it came to switches and providing help. This was simply a night of Syracuse making every shot, no matter how farfetched or ill-advised the shot looked.

Outmatched: Simply put, the Friars were outmatched in this game. Syracuse was up 43-16 at the half, and the Friars were falling far behind from their inability to convert on any shot they took. Syracuse is always a tough opponent on the road (they hold the longest active home winning streak at 38 after their victory over the Friars) and the Friars did themselves no favors on either end of the court for a majority of the first half. Every shot the Friars normally make didn't fall, and they couldn't catch a break on toss up fouls and goaltending calls. Though this loss was no fault of any referee, the Friars couldn't catch any gust of momentum.

Postseason: While there was buzz about the postseason prior to Wednesday, those hopes were not dashed simply because the Friars lost to a tough opponent. They're still in the conversation for the NIT, and many were saying that 4-1 was crucial during this stretch, with the single loss being against Syracuse. As of right now, the Friars are still on track to meet that mark. Of the remaining games – at Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, and at UConn – the Friars have legitimate shots at all four, and can position themselves well for the Big East Tournament and a postseason bid. The key is to put Wednesday behind them and focus on the remaining matchups. If the Friars can take care of business like they're capable of doing, they'll be seeing their first postseason since the 2009 season.

Of course, let's not forget the Friars were also projected to finish last in the Big East and have so far proven many coaches, analysts, and media personnel wrong in this prediction. That alone is indicative of Ed Cooley, the staff, and the team's hard work paying off, and one loss cannot mitigate their accomplishments.

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