Syracuse Orange Basketball: Lack Of Depth A Cause For Concern Late In Season

By Andrew Tredinnick
Mark Konezny- USA TODAY Sports

It could simply be a classic knee-jerk reaction, but the Syracuse Orange might have a larger problem brewing following its first loss of the season to the Boston College Eagles.

A perfect storm of factors enabled the Eagles to secure a 62-59 road victory over the Orange in overtime. BC caught fire from deep in the second half, sinking 9-of-14 (64.3 percent) from beyond the arc following halftime. The combination of Boston College exploiting the weakness of the 2-3 zone and CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis going cold late in the game led to the Syracuse’s first loss of the season.

Locked in a tight game down the stretch, SU head coach Jim Boeheim doled out the late-game responsibilities to Fair and Ennis, but for the first time this season neither player could provide any magic.

In uncharacteristic fashion, the pair missed their last four shots in overtime and Ennis nearly threw the ball away with SU trailing by one late in overtime. A controversial call kept the ball with the Orange, but then he actually did with under five seconds left in the game.

Fair and Ennis have been asked to do a lot in recent games as the team’s workhorses. They’re expected to rise to the occasion in every close game, and 96 percent of the time this season they have. On Wednesday, they finally crumbled under the pressure.

The Orange offense looked stagnant for much of the game against one of the worst teams in the ACC. Syracuse sharpshooter Trevor Cooney (2-of-8 shooting) never found his rhythm, and Ennis and Fair’s play fizzled in the game’s waning moments. The sense of urgency kicked in late, but the Eagles sealed the game with a series of crisp plays. The question is how many of Syracuse’s string of near-losses can be attributed to a lack of depth or fatigue down the stretch?

Syracuse’s starters have played 389 of 425 minutes over the team’s last two games against BC and NC State. That’s why center Baye Moussa Keita received a rousing ovation when he entered the game with 12:56 to go in the first half. Keita missed the previous two games with a sprained right knee and played just two minutes in his first game back.

The past few seasons, Boeheim has had an energy scorer at his disposal off the bench with Fair, James Southerland and Dion Waiters filling that role. He had that role filled with this season before starting power forward Dajuan Coleman went down with a season-ending leg injury. Grant was inserted into the starting lineup and Boeheim has played with a six to seven-man rotation since the injuries to Coleman and Keita. Michael Gbinije has floated back-and-forth between the forward and guard positions as the first man off the bench for the Orange, but he hasn’t provided any big contributions.

Syracuse has succeeded all season with a small rotation, and Keita returning to play regular minutes will alleviate some of the pressure on SU’s lineup. But Syracuse fans have to hope that Wednesday was simply an aberration and not the first sign of wear and tear after playing consistent close games with only six main contributors at its disposal.

Andrew Tredinnick is an ACC Basketball writer for Follow him on Twitter @tred_nation or add him to your network on Google.

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