Syracuse’s three-guard lineup provides increased spacing on offense at the cost of stronger defense at the top of the zone

first_imgHoward Washington checked in midway through the first half of Syracuse’s most recent game against Florida State. Washington hadn’t played more than three minutes since the Eastern Michigan game on Dec. 27. But the Orange had tallied just five points to that point — coming off back-to-back games of shooting less than 40 percent — and was looking for a spark.Immediately, the move paid off on the offensive end. SU’s offense had been running a lineup of guards Frank Howard and Tyus Battle flanked by Matthew Moyer, Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu. None of the frontcourt players were threats to shoot the ball from the perimeter, which clogged the lane for the Orange. But that changed as soon as Washington came in, and on the first possession he knocked down a corner 3-pointer off a drive-and-kick from Howard.“I definitely feel like that’s a good lineup for us to get going and get running,” Washington said after the three-guard lineup was used in the win over Colgate.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorAdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhen Syracuse came back to that lineup on Saturday against Florida State, the Seminoles had the ball on what ended up becoming a little bit of a broken possession. Paschal Chukwu failed to intercept an overthrown pass. The ball bounced out to the high post and was then kicked out to Phil Cofer in the corner behind the arc. Tyus Battle, who was responsible for that area of the zone, never made it out as Cofer drilled the open shot.After a promising start through the nonconference portion of the schedule, Syracuse (12-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast) is in a rut. While the team’s defense has largely remained solid, the offense has stalled out, shooting just 42 percent. The spacing issues are clear in the Orange attack, and running out three guards that can shoot helps alleviate that. But it comes at the expense of the Orange’s strength on defense.“We’re not as good defensively with that lineup,” head coach Jim Boeheim said after the Colgate game. “Tyus was much better at the guard spot, that’s where he’s more comfortable, that’s where he’s better.”Washington has knocked down just two of 11 3-point attempts this year, but he’s played very limited minutes. He’s a confident shooter who knocks 3s down consistently in practice and seems to have the green light to shoot from behind the arc.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorBattle and freshman forward Oshae Brissett both have said that having the three-guard lineup on the floor helps with spacing. Howard said he likes it because it gives him the opportunity to come off screens more and alleviates some of his ball-handling responsibility.When the third guard comes in, it’s been Howard and Washington at the top of the 2-3 zone. That means Battle drops down to take one of the spots left by the forwards. It’s a new position for him after spending all of last year playing at the top.“I think I’m getting used to it,” Battle said. “But I know when Frank and I are up top, I think we cause more problems at the top of the zone. Because we’re both really long. So we get steals and deflections and just make it tough against the middle.”Assistant coach Adrian Autry, who works primarily with the forwards, has helped Battle adjust to the role. Autry said that Battle has a basic understanding of the defense, but that sometimes he’ll still read his slide assignments like a guard and can potentially come too high up.Battle is listed at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, two inches shorter than either of the starting forwards. But Autry pointed out that Battle has a similar frame to Malachi Richardson, who played the forward spot in the zone during his lone year at Syracuse two seasons ago.Autry said that Richardson has longer arms than Battle, which helped him get into passing lanes, but that Battle is faster which helps him rotate over to the middle if the center steps up.“He’s fast and he’s quick, so he can get there probably a little bit faster than our guys,” Autry said. “And I think when he’s at that position that’s what he has to do.”The difference, though, is that when Richardson played at the forward spot, SU still had two bigger guards — Trevor Cooney (6-foot-4, 195 pounds) and Michael Gbinije (6-foot-7, 200 pounds) at the top of the zone. Washington is 6-foot-3 and weighs just 180 pounds.As the season progresses for Syracuse, Boeheim will have to assess whether the reward of more spacing on offense is worth giving up the team’s strength at the top of the zone. Comments Published on January 15, 2018 at 9:20 pm Contact Tomer: [email protected] | @tomer_langer Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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