Syracuse works around faceoff troubles entering rematch with Duke

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Week after week, Syracuse’s problems at the faceoff X are talked about ad nauseam. The Orange continues to struggle, and more and more questions are asked. SU has only won more faceoffs than its opponent in just two games this season and at this point, it’s about becoming more methodical and successful in every other facet of the game. “You have to be efficient offensively, and when we do get our stops on defense, we’ve got to clear the ball,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said following last weekend’s 12-10 victory over Johns Hopkins. “Every possession becomes important to us when the other team is winning faceoffs like that.”Offensive and defensive efficiency will be a focal point this weekend when the Orange (4-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) faces Duke (7-2, 1-1) on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. The Orange will look to manage the nation’s premier faceoff specialists, Brendan Fowler, who set the NCAA single-season faceoff record with 339 victories last season and is winning 60.9 percent of his draws this year.Derek Maltz, Kevin Rice and Brandon Mullins agreed with Desko that there’s more of an emphasis on the other areas of the field when the team is struggling at the X. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textDespite losing 21-of-25 draws against the Blue Jays, the Orange still managed to pull out a win because it scored on more than half of its possessions. Syracuse’s 38.9 percent shooting percentage ranks second nationally, and only eight teams in the country turn the ball over less. “I think we have a pretty good offense, but we’re efficient because we have to be, and our guys know we have to be,” Desko said. “Sometimes we need to get into a flow on the offense to rest the defense. “When you haven’t won faceoffs and the defense on the other end is playing defense after every goal, we need some possessions just to give them a little break.”Maltz said the SU coaching staff has harped on taking care of the ball and valuing possession this week. It’s always an emphasis, but especially this weekend against Fowler, who dominated the second half of the title game. “He’s excellent, as we’ve seen in the past,” Desko said. “We have to make sure that we’re efficient in all other aspects of our game.” Not having the ball as much also changes the mind-set of the SU attack. Syracuse is more selective in its shot attempts, and has held the ball for longer stretches to give the defense a rest. They’ve also, at times, held back from pushing fast-break opportunities. “There’ll be times where we can push a four-on-four or a five-on-five, but if it’s really not that great of an opportunity, we’re going to have to pull it out,” Maltz said. “If we take a shot that misses and we don’t get the backup, or the goalie makes a save or we throw the ball away, Duke’s getting the ball right back.”Winning 39.5 percent of faceoffs also means the Syracuse defense is being tested often. But the unit has caused 40 turnovers, and cleared at nearly an 86 percent rate at Johns Hopkins. Mullins said SU’s defense has been working on clearing the ball so that when they do get stops, the offense will have opportunities. “At this point, it’s nothing new to us. Whatever happens in the game, we’re ready for it,” Mullins said. “If we’re not winning faceoffs, we’ve got to get the ball back by playing defense. That’s definitely an emphasis.”But the Orange sees the bigger picture. Desko talked about how frustrated he is knowing that the Orange could have won more games by winning just a few more draws, especially against the country’s best teams.This weekend will arguably be the team’s biggest test, and Maltz knows the long-term significance the contest could have.“We realize how important this game is for the conference,” Maltz said. “As talented as a conference as the ACC is, I don’t think a team that goes 0-3 in the conference will be a part of that top four. “We want to make it to the end of the season and play in the ACC playoffs.” Comments Published on March 19, 2014 at 10:55 pm Contact Josh: jmhyber@syr.edulast_img