Despite poor shooting in second half, SU again finds way to win close game

first_img Published on December 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+ With a wide grin, Kris Joseph raised his arms in celebration as teammate Dion Waiters sank the second of two free throws to clinch victory. Syracuse came back from a slight second-half deficit, and for at least one more game, the Orange’s unbeaten mark would stay unblemished. Once again, SU escaped an upset. Trailing by as many as six points with 11:38 left to play, Syracuse clawed its way back to win against North Carolina State 65-59, with a combination of stingy defense and intangibles that compensated for its shooting inefficiency. It’s the combination SU has developed through eight games of that shooting inefficiency. And on Saturday, the Orange needed that combination more than ever. Shooting just 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) in the second half, the Orange watched a comfortable 13-point lead from the first half turn into a growing deficit down the stretch. SU shot the ball well early but soon found that momentum shifted with the lead. ‘We had been in this same situation before,’ Joseph said. ‘We’re not going to panic, whether we’re down or up. We know how to stay poised and execute.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Having already played and won four games by single digits, Syracuse seems to have found the right recipe for success late in close games. SU shot just 65 percent from the free-throw line but, as in Waiters’ two late freebies, made them when it needed to. The Orange defense forced 10 second-half turnovers and only turned the ball over twice during the final 20 minutes, keeping the Orange alive. ‘One good thing is that we turned it over five times,î Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘That was the difference in the game. If the turnovers are any different, we have no chance to win.’ Syracuse has made a habit out of winning close games despite its poor shooting. In addition to its overall poor shooting on the night, the Orange made just 2-of-16 shots from beyond the arc. That’s something that could eventually catch up to Syracuse as it begins to face tougher opponents, beginning with No. 6 Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in New York City Tuesday. To Boeheim, those shooting numbers just won’t get it done consistently. ‘You’ve got to be able to make some shots out there,’ Boeheim said. ‘And, you know, we’ve got to find a way to make some of those if we’re going to be good.’ The lessons from the previous seven games came in handy against a North Carolina State team that had all the momentum until Boeheim turned on the full-court press. Suddenly, SU created turnovers and got out in its transition attack. The Orange generated seven times the amount of points off turnovers as the Wolfpack. That swung some of the momentum back toward SU. This game was just another that allowed the Orange to continue to add to its experience and ability to win games down the stretch. It’s something the players hope continues. ‘Every game you play, you want to learn something from it, even if it’s a blowout,’ point guard Scoop Jardine said. ‘We’ve been having some close ones and we’ve learned from it, and we know we’ve got to always come together to win close ones like this. That’s how it’s going to be.’ And as the season continues to progress, these are the lessons teammate Rick Jackson believes will ultimately make Syracuse a contender. ‘Whenever you come down to the wire and play a good team like that, it just prepares you for the future,’ Jackson said. ‘You have to find a way to win when the ball isn’t going in.’ Boeheim said he expects the Orange to play better as the season progresses, but shooting the ball well will be essential. Playing better on offense is ‘the bottom line,’ he said. Until then, Syracuse has shown it can still win by staying poised and imposing its will defensively. For Joseph, those are two ‘habits’ that have developed for this team. Even if, thus far, its shooting touch hasn’t. ‘The more we go on through the season, I see that our team picks up new habits,’ Joseph said. ‘And they’re good habits. That’s what we’re going to need to build throughout the year.’ [email protected]center_img Commentslast_img read more