Afterthoughts: Even after respite of hope, Syracuse’s point guard play remains an issue

first_img Published on January 12, 2017 at 11:40 am Contact Paul: pmschwed@syr.edu | @pschweds BLACKSBURG, Va. — John Gillon stood on the Syracuse sideline hunched over in ready position expecting to enter the game. He wanted to be the one to guide the Orange’s offense and lead SU to what could have been its best win of the year.Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim didn’t adhere. He remained with Frank Howard at point guard in the final minute of the game. But regardless of whom Boeheim went with, coming back from a 15-point second-half deficit was improbable. Even if Gillon did return to provide a spark, it likely would have been too late.At the beginning of the year, figuring out the point guard spot was one of the Orange’s (10-7, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) primary objectives. And after John Gillon averaged 14 points and 11 assists in his last two games, it seemed as though SU had finally solved the puzzle. But an 83-73 loss to Virginia Tech (13-3, 2-2) on Tuesday night illuminated more struggles.“Our point guard play has been really good and was as bad as it’s ever been tonight,” Boeheim said. “I don’t have an explanation for that. We have two really good games and the first half, John was 0-for-3 with no assists and two turnovers. Can’t play that way. Can’t play that way.”Frank Howard came off the bench to relieve Gillon for 13 minutes and was equally as ineffective. The duo combined to shoot 3-for-14 from the field with seven assists and two turnovers. By going with Gillon for all but one minute in the previous two games, the Orange received its best point guard production of the season. And just two days after guard output headed in the right direction, it came to a halt.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat’s not to say that Gillon and Howard can’t bounce back, because they certainly can. But as SU’s NCAA Tournament hopes dwindle with each loss, every regression is magnified.“I let us down. I didn’t play how I needed to play,” Gillon said. “I didn’t play to the standard that we need to win and just do whatever I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, just play with the same aggression and that hurt us.”Gillon had been at his best when driving strong to the basket. That’s what freed him up for open shots on the perimeter and forced defenses to collapse, leading to more open shots from teammates.Except against Virginia Tech, Gillon’s drives didn’t kick start the offense how it usually had. Within a five-minute span at the end of the first half, Gillon shot a layup that didn’t even touch the rim, had a shot blocked under the basket and, with a chance to cut the game to four points before halftime, committed a travel. Howard, meanwhile, went 1-for-5 from the field and didn’t bring the stability SU was looking for.“He was trying to prove he can’t shoot jump shots,” Boeheim said of Howard. “And he did, he did that.”All of this leaves Syracuse right back where it sat 10 days ago, coming off a humiliating loss to Boston College. That was before Gillon played 79 of 80 minutes in a two-game stretch, back when SU hadn’t found the right formula it had been searching for since November.Last week, that changed. Gillon is its best option, but only when he can get to the rim, set up teammates and command the offense. The Orange has an answer — but that doesn’t matter if he’s inconsistent.“I just don’t think he made any positive plays in 13 or 14 minutes,” Boeheim said of Gillon.After a brief glimmer of hope, Syracuse can’t afford that.—Asst. Photo Editor Colin Davy, cpdavy@syr.edu, contributed reporting to this article. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more