WBB : Syracuse still trying to perfect defense in final stretch of season

first_imgIt sounded like a good plan. One that would elevate Syracuse from an NCAA tournament outsider to tournament participant. Increase intensity on defense, force turnovers and then convert to points on offense.As the season’s end rapidly approaches, though, the pressure defense hasn’t panned out quite as flawlessly as the Orange would’ve hoped. While it has created opportunities in some games, it has fizzled in others. Overall, SU’s pressure defense has had its ups and downs in a rocky season.‘I think we’re doing pretty well with it,’ guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas said. ‘We’re not forcing as many turnovers as we would like to. But we’re getting steals out of it. When we come and we press teams, we’re getting what we want out of it. They’re slowing the ball down, and they’re making some bad decisions.’Though the full-court press that head coach Quentin Hillsman introduced at the start of the season has forced some turnovers, it still hasn’t provided the answer Syracuse was looking for to make it a member of the Big East’s elite. Typically, when the Orange sets up its defense, it falls back into a 2-3 zone, just as it has for the last several seasons. Every once in a while, Hillsman will call for the press to catch opponents off guard, but SU still finds itself struggling in conference play. Syracuse (14-9, 3-6 Big East) will have its next opportunity to continue to improve its pressure defense when it plays South Florida (12-11, 4-5) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.SU sits in 11th place in the Big East in steals with 9.1 per game. In Syracuse’s last game against lowly Providence, the Friars notched nine steals while SU managed to get only four. But on a night when Providence performed poorly on offense and Syracuse shot lights out from the field, SU’s pressure defense wasn’t needed as the Orange cruised to an 80-54 victory.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textStill, four steals is less than what SU expects to get, regardless of whether it’s playing the press or a zone defense. And it’s clear that when Syracuse does force turnovers, wins come more easily.Against Pittsburgh on Jan. 7, the Orange forced the Panthers into 23 turnovers, leading to 23 points in an easy win. Down at Seton Hall, the Pirates committed 14 turnovers, which created 25 points for Syracuse. It’s those types of games, Hillsman said, that show how pivotal the press can be when it’s working right.‘It’s been good. Obviously, against Seton Hall, I think our pressure defense won the game for us,’ Hillsman said. ‘Down at Boise State, that game it won the game for us. Then against UConn, in the first half, it kept us in the game and kept us with the opportunity to win the game.’Perhaps the biggest issue hampering the Orange’s ability to use the press more consistently and effectively is SU’s poor play on the offensive end. All season — with the exception of its game against the Friars in which it shot nearly 58 percent — Syracuse has struggled shooting. Too often, the Orange’s shortcomings on offense have prevented it from setting up its press.And when Syracuse does have the ball, it’s also turning it over too many times. The Orange is 12th in the conference in turnover margin as a result.Guard Elashier Hall is second on the team in steals with 36 and said that despite the high number of turnovers her team is committing, it hasn’t been frustrating that her defensive effort is essentially being negated.‘The more steals I get, the more chances we get to convert,’ Hall said. ‘Even when we don’t convert as well as we would want to, the opportunities are still there. It’s one thing to not even have the opportunities, but to have the opportunities and sometimes not convert is better than not having them at all.’Hall said that an increased effort on the defensive end of the floor is what can take Syracuse’s defense to the next level. And the Orange needs that to happen to get back on track heading into the postseason.For now, there’s still work to be done for the pressure defense to work as well as SU expected.‘We haven’t risen as a pressure team,’ Tyson-Thomas said. ‘But I think we’ll get to that point.’[email protected] Comments Published on February 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Chris: [email protected] | @chris_isemancenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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