On Wednesday night, the Syracuse Orange turned back the clock with their uniforms. By the end of the game, the Boston College Eagles had turned out the lights on their undefeated season. Boston College used a patient offense, solid three-point shooting, and an ability not to turnover the basketball at key times to upset No. 1 Syracuse in overtime, 62-59, at the Carrier Dome. The loss ended Syracuse’s 25-game winning streak to start the college basketball season, and perhaps amazingly, knocked the Orange (12-1 ACC) down to second place in the ACC, as Virginia (13-1) is now a half-game ahead of Syracuse. Those teams meet March 1 in Charlottesville.
Syracuse’s recent wins over Pittsburgh and North Carolina State had come by a total of just three points and it could easily be argued that both the Panthers and the Wolfpack could have, or should have, won those games. Only late heroics kept the Orange unbeaten and on top of both the national polls and the conference standings. Against another decent team, many could suggest that Syracuse might be in trouble, especially with a game at Duke on tap for Saturday night.
Even on Wednesday it seemed like the breaks were going to go Syracuse’s way again when, in the final half-minute of overtime, Orange freshman guard Tyler Ennis threw the ball out of bounds, over the outstretched arms of BC defender Lonnie Jackson. However, the officials ruled that Jackson had tipped the ball, gave the ball to Syracuse, and after a lengthy review, upheld the call. But even this bit of good fortune wasn’t enough to help the Orange on Wednesday.
Senior forward C.J. Fair missed a shot after the review and Jackson, who if he was steaming from the bad call by the officials didn’t show it, hit four key free throws to secure the upset. Jackson going 4-for-4 at the line in a clutch situation might have been the ultimate sign of the roof caving in on Syracuse, given that he is just a 56 percent free-throw shooter on the season and hadn’t been to the line the entire game before his quartet of makes in the final 26 seconds.
While some will make the insane argument that “it’s good for Syracuse to lose a game,” losing at home to Boston College (7-19, 3-10 ACC), who is currently 14th in the 15-team conference, isn’t the kind of loss that anyone should be looking at as a good thing. Syracuse led Wednesday night by as many as 13 points (30-17) after Fair’s layup with 18:52 to go in the second half. There’s simply no excuse for the undisputed, undefeated, No. 1 team in the country to be playing at home against such a weak opponent and blowing a 13-point lead to lose in overtime. That’s not a good loss or a character-building loss, it’s a loss that shows that maybe the Orange aren’t as good as everyone thought (at least not right now), and their issues have been masked by their ability to outsmart teams (and get some breaks) in the final minutes.
Full credit goes to Boston College. The Eagles were extremely patient on offense against Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense, turned it over only five times in the final 25 minutes of the game, and shot the ball from the outside the way teams have to in order to beat the Orange. Boston College finished 11-for-22 (50 percent) from three-point range, with Olivier Hanlan (4-for-9, 20 points) leading the way. Defensively, the Eagles held Syracuse to 32 percent shooting from the field won the rebounding battle, 39-38. Fair led Syracuse with 20 points but was only 7-for-23 from the field.
The Orange only had five players contribute anything in the game (BC had six) and that lack of depth is a serious red flag when looking at the Orange with regard to the NCAA tournament. Whether Syracuse was worn down on Wednesday from all their recent close games or just wasn’t focused on the Eagles because of the upcoming Duke game, this is a defeat that only counts for one in the loss column, but may have much more meaning for Syracuse’s season.