The ACC earned a very good road win over the Big Ten on Wednesday night as Syracuse won at No. 16 Ohio State, 72-62. After some early losses for the Orange, this was a convincing true road win over a legitimate opponent. The Buckeyes had a disappointing effort, but it’s also a few weeks into a long season.
Here are three takeaways from this one.
1. Everything changes when Syracuse can makes early shots
One of the huge keys for Syracuse is an ability to generate consistent offense through perimeter shooting. At times a dreadful offense last season, the Orange were able to build a solid second-half lead in the Ohio State win thanks to 11-for-24 three-point shooting.
Tyus Battle (20 points), Elijah Hughes (16 points) and Oshae Brissett (14 points) all finished in double-figures for the Orange while Frank Howard and Marek Dolezaj both knocked down two three-pointers each. Once Syracuse grabs an early lead, its zone allows for them to run clock on defense since it takes opponents so long to figure out a good look. It makes a double-digit lead even tougher — especially when the Orange are careful with the ball.
Syracuse doesn’t need to have the best offense in the world to beat most teams. But if they knock down some early shots and grab a firm lead, it enhances how dangerous they can be in the second half. This is one of those games where the Orange grabbed a lead and squeezed the life out of Ohio State by using its suffocating defense.
2. Ohio State has to figure out zones
One of the reasons the Buckeyes found themselves as the No. 1 team in the new NET rating was some impressive early-season true road wins at Cincinnati and Creighton.
But when tested by a Sweet 16 team with great length, Ohio State didn’t look nearly as convincing as those earlier wins against Syracuse. Passive against the Orange 2-3 zone, and struggling to gain any kind of entry inside, Ohio State’s offense suffered as it dragged with a lot of perimeter passing. Lack of consistent perimeter shooting (27 percent, 6-for-22) really hurt the Buckeyes in this one as they could never bail out their offense with a big shot.
Big man Kaleb Wesson also struggled from the field, as he couldn’t do a lot with his limited lift against Syracuse’s interior length. Wesson still figured out a way to be productive and finished with 13 points, but he was only 1-for-8 from the field in this one as he couldn’t score to extend possessions.
Syracuse’s activity on defense deserves a lot of credit for giving them the early lead and sustaining, Ohio State could also do a lot to improve its counter. Point guard C.J. Jackson (19 points, 4-for-14 shooting) struggled at times from the floor in this one, as he has a lot to do creating offense through penetration, passing or knocking down perimeter shots. The younger Ohio State pieces will also learn better ways, and angles, to approach a lot of these zone situations. It’ll be a good learning experience for conference season if a Big Ten team goes zone against them even if they did drop this one in underwhelming fashion.
3. Syracuse can breath a bit more with a good non-conference win
After Syracuse lost to early-season games in New York against UConn and Oregon, it was a bit concerning for the Orange’s long-term outlook. Now that Syracuse has won on the road against a top-20 opponent, a lot of those early concerns can get erased.
While the Orange still have plenty of basketball left before the postseason, this was a necessary win for them before they hit the rigorous ACC stretch of the schedule. And with upcoming home games against Georgetown and a top-25 Buffalo team, Syracuse has two more chances for solid non-con wins before conference play begins.
Things weren’t looking so hot for Syracuse after that weekend in Madison Square Garden. But road wins against top-20 teams tend to have a lasting positive impact on things and this could be a major confidence-booster for the Orange.