One three-point shot is all that separated Syracuse from a trip to the Sweet 16. One made perimeter shot at any point in the Orange’s round of 32 game against Dayton would have likely been enough for Syracuse to survive and advance. But all 10 shots the Orange took from three-point range missed, and quite fittingly, the team’s biggest weakness throughout the season was its eventual downfall.
The Orange put together some truly ugly offensive performances this year, especially late in the season, but few were as pitiful as their performance Saturday night in front of a biased crowd in Buffalo. Syracuse teased us in the tournament’s opening round on Thursday by hitting their stride offensively, looking like the team that looked close to unstoppable for the first 25 games of the season, rather than the team that lost five of seven heading into the NCAA Tournament. But by Saturday night, that team was nowhere to be found.
Front and center to Syracuse’s shooting woes was Trevor Cooney, who didn’t look more off all season than he did against Dayton. Cooney was horrendous shooting the ball, and Jim Boeheim was right to keep him on the bench for much of the second half. Had Cooney been able to keep up his shooting from Thursday’s tournament opener, the Orange would have cruised into the Sweet 16. But without any scoring from the perimeter, Syracuse didn’t have enough to get past a Dayton team that competed hard and play well.
Of course, the loss doesn’t fall completely on Cooney’s shoulders. Although the Orange scored most of their points against Dayton in the paint, Syracuse missed on a lot of scoring opportunities close to the rim that would have made a big difference in such a close game. C.J. Fair converted just four of his 14 field goal attempts, and while it’s impossible to fault his effort, Fair missed too many shots that he’s accustomed to making, which the Orange couldn’t overcome on top of their futility from the perimeter.
The loss to Dayton ended what was once a promising season for the Orange that looked destined to end far differently than in the round of 32. Syracuse served up some memorable moments in 2014, but the uncanny ability to make game-winning plays in the clutch turned out to be unsustainable for the entire season. The Orange were almost always in position to win games late, but eventually the shots stopped falling for them, and it’s what knocked them out of the postseason prematurely.
In the grand scheme of things, this year’s Syracuse team was better than many would have expected from them before the season, considering all they lost from last year’s Final Four team. But after so many flashes of greatness throughout the season, going out during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is disappointing, especially when they were just one shot away from advancing.
Bryan Zarpentine covers Syracuse Orange football and basketball for ChatSports.com. You can follow him on twitter @BZarp and @ChatSyracuse. Also, add him to your network on Google, and keep up with Syracuse at ChatSports.com/Syracuse-Orange.
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