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NCAA Basketball Big East BasketballSyracuse Orange

Michael Carter-Williams Struggles as Syracuse Gets Upset by Villanova

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse sophomore guard Michael Carter Williams has probably been the most integral part of the Orange’s 18-2 start, even including Saturday’s upset loss to rival foe – not for too much longer – Villanova.

While the Wildcats offense really didn’t have a hard time scoring, especially in the paint, Syracuse never looked comfortable in a game in which they never established rhythm, or a stable lead at any point. Who else to blame for the Orange’s offensive woes but the head of the offense, Carter Williams?

Shooting an awful 4-for-17 from the field, the Big East’s assist leader worked incredibly hard for each of his 17 points, but his scoring output didn’t overcompensate for his five turnovers, including a bad pass after he should have pulled up for a short jumper in the lane with about 1:35 left in the game, which led to Villanova cutting the lead back to three.

To make matters worse, Carter Williams missed the front end of a one-and-one with about 19 seconds to go, which instead of icing the game for Syracuse, allowed for Villanova to send the game into overtime off the strength of a buzzer beating three from freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono.

It’s unfair, however, to blame Carter Williams for Jim Boeheim’s big men playing an awful game. Once again, Syracuse really missed junior forward James Southerland, who has been declared academically ineligible and will sit out indefinitely.

As good as Carter Williams was last week against Louisville, he never looked comfortable on Saturday, on the road, against one of the hotter teams in the conference. I thought that Carter Williams would feast on Arcidiacono, but it seemed quite the opposite happened, as the freshman guard played air tight defense, and happened to be the hero in regulation.

Syracuse is still clearly finding their identity, as the most fluid they looked Saturday was when Brandon Triche took over in the second half, scoring 10 points over a four-minute period in the second half to single-handedly pull Syracuse back into the game, and even take the lead. Not having Southerland really doesn’t give them a scoring threat in the front court, as Baye Keita has struggled to stay out of foul trouble, and Rakeem Christmas has been inconsistent.

Carter Williams is still having a fantastic season, but it showed just how badly he’s needed to carry the team in tight games like Saturday’s disappointing loss.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth