The last time these two teams squared off was on the aircraft carrier, USS Midway. In that game, No. 9 ranked Syracuse dominated No. 20 ranked SDSU. In that case, the environment literally affected the game. This time the environment was no excuse.
SDSU was lost all game.
Last Sunday, when the matchup was announced, SDSU’s focus immediately went to the Syracuse zone. If they could overcome that, they would have a clear path to victory.
“The zone takes a lot more communication when there are shooters on the floor; pointing and talking which guys are on which side. If we do a good job moving, it will be hard to recognize in a split second whether to close out a shooter or close out a driver”, Jordan Schakel said in the days before the matchup.
They failed to execute this plan. In fact, it looked like SDSU couldn’t penetrate past the three-point line most of the game. That forced them to lob up all types of bad looks. As a team, they shot 11/40 (27.5%) from deep. At times, it looked like their strategy was to spray and pray that shots would go in. Matt Mitchell II and Terrell Gomez combined to go 2-for-16 from beyond the arc.
When Aztecs did have success getting the ball inside, their fortunes were not much better. The Aztecs made 24-67 (35.8%) of their shot attempts. Syracuse still dominated there with eight blocks against SDSU.
In fact, SDSU went on one of their largest scoreless streaks in recent memory. They didn’t score in the final nine and a half minutes of the first half. In total, they were scoreless for over 10 minutes of game time.
The shooting was so bad at times that the Aztecs were actually able to outrebound Syracuse 30-28. On offensive rebounds, they had a 12-4 advantage. This is largely because many SDSU shots barely made it to the rim and bounced back toward the perimeter.
To no one’s surprise, the two best scorers for SDSU were Mitchell and Schakel. They each finished the game with 17 points but with a different path. As mentioned earlier, Mitchell struggled from deep but ended up shooting 8-19. Schakel’s shot looked off to start the game. It caused him to miss a few open looks. As the game progressed, he found his form and made five three-pointers. He was a victim of the team’s inability to drive inside. The 3-2 zone allowed Syracuse to constantly have someone nearby to contest his shots.
While the offense failed to make inroads against the Syracuse defense, there should have been a chance for SDSU’s defense to shine. After all, SDSU is also known for its great defense. Syracuse, lead by Buddy Boeheim, went on an absolute tear. As a team, they made 55.6% of their three-pointers and 55.3% of all field goals.
Boeheim looked like he couldn’t miss a shot if he tried. He ended the game with 30 points from seven three-pointers, four field goals, and alone free throw. Even when SDSU adapted and gave him increased attention, he still found a way to make difficult shots.
As a whole, Syracuse was the better team from the tip-off to the last seconds of the game. They made SDSU a very smart team, look unprepared, and lost.