The men’s basketball team attempted to snap a six game losing streak when it hosted Syracuse at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon. Instead, their streak extended to seven games in perhaps their worst performance of the season.
The ‘Canes fell 91-74 in front of just over 4,000 fans. The Hurricanes led 6-0 early, but then fell apart as they struggled defensively. The worst part was that the Syracuse Orangemen shot 71.9 percent from the field in the first half and over 86 percent in the first 10 minutes of the half, scoring 54 points in the process to take a 54-33 lead into the locker room.
“When they shot 71 percent in the first half, I thought they couldn’t repeat that, so if we played better defense, we could get back in it,” Head Coach Perry Clark said.
The Hurricanes did make a run early in the second half, cutting the deficit down to 12, but two three-pointers by Gerry McNamara proved to be the ultimate nail in the coffin.
“At the start of the second half, I thought we had a chance to get back in the game,” Clark said. “We made a run, [but]then McNamara hit a pair of three pointers.”
The ‘Canes’ defensive problems were evident throughout the game, as they allowed Syracuse to dunk the ball 10 times. In addition, Orangemen forward Hakim Warrick was 11 for 11 from the field and scored 27 points, many of which were dunks. McNamara was 5 for 7 from three-point range and ended the game with 23 points.
“We just had no answer for Warrick and McNamara today. They were great offensively,” Clark said.
Will Frisby led the Hurricanes with 16 points and Darius Rice added 14, but Rice left the game midway through the second half with an injury. He is questionable for the game against Connecticut on Wednesday.
“Certainly, losing Darius hurts, but it won’t deter us,” Clark said. “Hopefully, it will motivate us more.”
When asked if the loss meant that the Hurricanes had reached rock bottom, Clark said that he didn’t believe they had and talked about his team’s character. However, the Hurricanes were taunted on both ends of the floor in front of their home fans.
“This game took a hit on our morale,” Frisby said. “We wanted to win the game, but we learned a lesson today. You can’t give up, and this will make us stronger. I’ve never been one to give up.”
The loss leaves the Hurricanes at 13-12 on the season but only 3-8 in the conference and, if the season ended today, they would not be in the Big East Tournament. Only the bottom two teams in the conference fail to make the tournament.
“We have to keep playing with intensity,” guard Guillermo Diaz said. “It’s still the same sport we have been playing and we have to keep our heads up and keep trying.”
If the season is to be saved at all, the Hurricanes will need a victory on the upcoming road trip. If they fail to win one, they will return home with a record under .500 and may have a difficult time making the postseason at all.
“The season is salvageable. We got kicked today, but that’s a very good basketball team,” Clark said. “There are still games left to play and we will have to bounce back.”
Darren Grossman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.