For much of the season the Syracuse Orange have been able to navigate a player struggling offensively simply by looking to another option.
The Orange were able to take advantage of their depth in winning 34 games, but with Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters both struggling from the field that wasn’t the case against Ohio State.
Joseph and Waiters combined to make just six of their nineteen shots from the field, scoring 19 points in the Orange’s 77-70 loss to the Buckeyes in the East regional final.
One reason why both struggled was the absence of transition baskets that Syracuse feasted on for much of the season. With that part of the game taken away by Ohio State, Syracuse wasn’t as patient as they needed to be in the half court.
“I think our offense just hurt us tonight,” remarked head coach Jim Boeheim. “Our offense has been really good the last two games. I just thought tonight we just weren’t as patient as we’ve been on the offensive end of the court.”
Of Joseph’s 11 attempts from the field seven were jumpers, of which he only made two. Both of Waiters’ field goals came at the rim, with the last being on a 3-point play to cut the Ohio State lead to 70-67 with 37 seconds remaining.
But foul trouble prevented the sophomore from getting into any kind of rhythm, as he picked up his fourth foul with 12:59 remaining and Syracuse trailing 46-39.
The Orange were able to cut Ohio State’s lead to one while Waiters was on the bench, but Syracuse was unable to get any closer.
One would think that being able to go to Waiters earlier in the half could have provided the boost needed to claim the lead, but Boeheim didn’t want to risk losing his spark plug to a fifth foul.
“The only reason Dion didn’t get back [was that] he had four fouls,” said Boeheim. “And I didn’t get him back in there because Brandon hit the two threes and Scoop got the two drives, but I wanted to get Dion in there for the last few minutes.”
It was rare when both Joseph and Waiters weren’t at their best in the same game. And unfortunately for Syracuse that’s exactly what happened in their biggest game of the season.
Raphielle Johnson is the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.