WATCH: FSU men set to host Syracuse
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s rarely much mystery involved when playing Syracuse.
The Orange are going to defend with a 2-3 zone and they’re going to shoot a lot from the perimeter. How well an opponent contends with those things usually determines the outcome.
No. 8 Florida State (20-4, 10-3 ACC) will look to deal with both Saturday (noon, ESPN2), in hopes that they can bounce back from a setback at Duke earlier this week.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said that Syracuse’s zone has some wrinkles that makes it a challenge for opposing offenses.
But, more than anything, what makes the Orange (14-10, 7-6) tough to attack is just how committed they are to defending the way they do. No matter what happens on Saturday, the Seminoles are likely to see the same thing on virtually every trip down the floor.
“They’re consistent with it,” Hamilton said. “They’re extremely patient. If I’m playing zone defense, with me, if you hit a couple 3s, I’m out of the zone and I’m going back to playing man-to-man.
“Some people, including myself, are very comfortable using man-to-man principles. He (Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim) is extremely comfortable with the zone.”
Traditional wisdom suggests that the best way to beat a zone defense is to shoot well from the perimeter.
In which case, FSU will be glad to be back home.
While typically among the ACC’s best 3-point-shooting teams this season – their 35.8 3-point percentage is the second best in the league – the Seminoles made only 3-of-18 from distance in a five-point loss at Duke.
They believe that, if they’re patient, they’ll get opportunities to make shots. They’ll just have to make them count.
“Just to move the ball and be patient,” senior guard Trent Forrest said, when asked how best to break down the Orange. “You just have to work them from side to side and get them in some rotations and then you’ll be able to attack.
“You can’t get too greedy on the first couple sides, because that’s when they’re at their best. If you can get it to the third side, maybe, that’s when you’re going to get a good shot.”
Syracuse has some pretty good shooters of their own, led by one with a familiar last name.
Sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim, the son of Syracuse’s 44-year head coach, is the fifth-leading scorer in the ACC (16.3 points per game) and has made more 3-pointers (84) than any major-conference player in the country.
Forrest said that Boeheim, who averaged only 6.8 points per game a year ago, is one of the most improved players in the country.
“You wouldn’t even think it was the same player,” he said. “He definitely got in the gym and improved his game a lot.”
Syracuse is also hoping that leading scorer Elijah Hughes (18.6 points, five rebounds per game) is available after injuring his groin in earlier this week.
Hughes, a 6-6 redshirt junior, tweeted that his injury was “nothing major” but will reportedly be a game-time decision on Saturday.
Hamilton said he expects a challenge regardless of Hughes’ status.
“It’s just amazing how teams seem to rise to the occasion,” he said. “Somebody else steps in. So you have to prepare for their players to be available. But I look back and see (other teams) that have lost players, and it’s almost like they’re playing better without the player.
“So we’re not giving a whole lot of conversation to that.”