MBB : Panthers 1st team to exploit SU zone on way to win

first_imgPITTSBURGH –– Sitting, whispering in the Petersen Events Center’s visitor’s locker room, Mike Hopkins formed the same gesture with his hands Scoop Jardine signaled to his teammates in the second half. The hand gesture — a strong circle, signifying a compact defense all the way around — equates to SU’s paramount failure in its 74-66 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday.Hopkins touched his fingertips from each hand together, bending his knuckles to form a linked circle, while speaking of SU’s inability to keep the Panthers out of the heart of the Orange’s 2-3 zone. But Monday, the strength of the circle was pillaged.‘In the beginning of the game, they were just getting to where they wanted to get to,’ Hopkins said. ‘And they just got little bounce passes, they were just very effective getting in the paint.’Monday, the Orange failed to communicate and shift enough to be that compact, complete 2-3 zone. And both SU head coach Jim Boeheim and Hopkins said the defensive failure was the difference in the game. It started with Fab Melo’s poor play in the first two minutes — when he allowed four points to Pitt power forward Nasir Robinson — and he was pulled for the rest of the game. Boeheim played with a smaller lineup the rest of the game, as Syracuse’s other center, Baye Moussa Keita, played just six minutes.The defects in the zone were all the way around, just like Hopkins and Jardine’s hand gesture. Melo began it all with poor positioning. The SU wings — without 6-foot-7 starting small forward Kris Joseph, who was out with a head injury — didn’t find the Pitt cutters in what Hopkins described as the SU zone’s ‘dead spots.’ And Jardine, Dion Waiters and Brandon Triche couldn’t halt Pitt’s drives. Boeheim said it was the guards’ worst performance of the season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘Our guards did nothing,’ Boeheim said. ‘They had the worst defensive game they had all year. They didn’t do a good job defending our zone. They just weren’t good at all.’Pinpointing one area of inefficiency in the SU zone Monday was tough, though. The guards weren’t completely to blame. Hopkins wouldn’t go as far as to say it all fell apart because of the guards. There were flaws everywhere.The flaws surfaced because of Pittsburgh’s ability to play both inside and outside. It started with physical play in the paint, as Robinson and Pitt center Gary McGhee dominated a helpless, solo Rick Jackson for offensive rebound after offensive rebound. After conquering the center of the zone, the Panthers then bombed away from outside.The links were formed in the chain. It broke the circle.‘It’s pick your poison,’ Hopkins said. ‘They execute really well. There were even times without a screen, screens work really well against our zone. But I think Coach was really upset they were driving down low.’Joseph missedSyracuse was without its leading scorer, Joseph, and it showed. Especially early.After falling and hitting his head hard on the court Saturday against Cincinnati, Joseph didn’t play a minute in the second half and remained in the locker room after halftime. As a result, he didn’t travel with the team to Pittsburgh Monday.‘First time watching Syracuse on TV since HS … Going to watch and learn,’ Joseph wrote via Twitter prior to Monday’s tip-off.Joseph’s leadership — and his 14.6 points per game — was definitely missed. The Orange missed its first 10 shots and didn’t get on the scoreboard until 11:56 was left in the first half. Joseph had been especially hot of late as well. Before Saturday, Joseph was averaging 20.6 points on 33-for-61 (59 percent) shooting from the field in his previous five games.Instead, James Southerland was thrust into the starting lineup in a hostile environment against the highest-ranked team Syracuse has played all season.‘You just have to play with what you have,’ Boeheim said. ‘There’s nothing you can do about that. Injuries happen, and you just have to go out and play. Obviously, (Joseph) is a big part of our team and was certainly missed tonight.’In his first career start, Southerland score eight points on 3-for-8 shooting, but Boeheim said he was unimpressed with his aggressiveness.‘He can’t play (38) minutes and grab just one rebound,’ Boeheim said.With No. 7 Villanova visiting the Carrier Dome Saturday, Boeheim was not ready to predict if Joseph will be ready to return to the court. At this point, he said, it’s still anybody’s guess.Said Boeheim: ‘We’ll see when we get back.’ Published on January 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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