No. 1 Syracuse has seemingly made a habit of escaping during ACC play, with Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair and company making the plays needed to remain undefeated down the stretch in close games. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday night, and the team that ended the Orange’s undefeated run was certainly a surprise.
Boston College, expected to take a step forward in the ACC before the season began but struggling mightily with a 6-19 record, upset Syracuse 62-59 in overtime at the Carrier Dome for its third conference win of the season. The key for Steve Donahue’s Eagles was their three-point shooting, as they made 11 of their 22 attempts on the night.
That shooting, and outscoring Syracuse 33-6 on three-pointers, allowed Boston College to hang with Syracuse despite the fact that they turned the ball over 17 times. Olivier Hanlan led the way offensively with 20 points and Lonnie Jackson, who hit four key free throws in overtime, added ten.
For the second consecutive game Syracuse struggled with its shooting, knocking down just 32.3% of its shots from the field after shooting 35.2% in their 56-55 win over N.C. State on Saturday night. Normally in those cases Jim Boeheim’s team can make up for this with their ability to hurt teams on the offensive glass, as they rank among the nation’s best in offensive rebounding percentage.
Against Boston College the Orange managed to corral 17 offensive rebounds, which works out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 35.4%. The problem for Syracuse: they didn’t do a particularly good job of taking advantage of those second-chance opportunities, scoring just ten points. By comparison Boston College converted nine offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points.
Between the offensive rebounding and their lack of turnovers, Syracuse has been one of the nation’s most efficient offenses this season despite posting some unspectacular scoring efforts. With the combination of an efficient offense and their solid defense Syracuse was able to win close game after close game. But Boston College’s perimeter shooting, with the Eagles being just the second ACC team this season to reach double digits in made three-pointers against Syracuse (Duke was the other), proved to be too much with the Orange struggling to make shots.
Much will likely be made about the fact that Syracuse’s game at No. 5 Duke on Saturday night loses a little luster due to Wednesday night’s result. But what’s of greater importance is the fact that the ACC race has become a lot tighter, with the Orange now tied for first place in the loss column with No. 14 Virginia (which has one more win). And with those teams meeting just once this season, on March 1 in Charlottesville, that’s of far greater importance than the hype associated with Saturday’s contest.