Looking at Syracuse guard Gerry McNamara’s stat sheet before Monday night’s game must have been dizzying for Missouri.
After McNamara blazed through Boston College on Saturday with six 3-pointers, the Tigers’ defense found its target.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, McNamara and the Orangemen saw it coming. They beat the Tigers 82-68 on Monday at Hearnes Center.
Averaging 18 points per game and shooting 42 percent from 3-point range, McNamara threatened a Tigers’ perimeter defense that has repeatedly struggled.
“We just wanted to stay attached to him because we knew if he got loose, he’s a deadly shooter,” freshman Thomas Gardner said. “That was just something Coach Q (Quin Snyder) drilled into us, beat into us all week. For us not to come out and execute today, it was very tough for us.”
McNamara continued his 3-point hot streak against the
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Tigers, hitting back-to-back 3s within the first two minutes. When Missouri took the lead 18-16 with 10:55 in the first half, he drilled another to pull the Orangemen ahead 19-18.
With 4:40 left in the first half, McNamara threw up a 3-point shot and missed. He missed badly, and the Missouri crowd let him know. Every time McNamara touched the ball for the rest of the half, Hearnes echoed with chants of “air ball, air ball.”
McNamara didn’t score another 3. He attempted only two more, but his first two quick 3s turned out to be the most damaging to the Tigers.
Double-teaming McNamara left holes in the Tigers’ defense, and the Orangemen saw right through them. Syracuse earned eight of their 12 second-half field goals in the post.
“Today we just had a memory lapse and didn’t really go out there and focus on defending,” Gardner said.
Snyder said biting McNamara’s bait wasn’t what hurt his squad the most. Again, the Tigers’ communication unraveled.
“He obviously affects the game because you can’t help off him, but I think it’s just more for us when we’re put in situations that require us to communicate and really be together like screen-and-roll or penetration rotation, we’re one guy late,” Snyder said.
“We close up the baseline and then we’re late coming down on the back side and you see a guy laying the ball in. It takes five guys.”
Syracuse’s big men, Hakim Warrik and Craig Forth, went to work. They posted 10 points each in the first half. Warrik finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. Forth capped his career night with 18 points.
Even though Paulding said the team showed flashes of solid defense, it wasn’t long enough. It wasn’t 40 minutes.
“When we need to really needed to make stops, we didn’t,” Paulding said.
McNamara finished with 17 points, but he didn’t make a field goal after a fast-break layup at the 12:43 mark in the second half.
The Tigers’ let their chances slip right through their fingers. They allowed the Orangemen 15 offensive rebounds, the most any opponent has grabbed on offense since the Tigers’ opening game against Oakland.
Snyder said those second chances hurt his team the most.
“I think Rickey did a great job on McNamara,” Snyder said. “You’re talking about a tiny margin that we have for success, but how many times did we have a hand on a ball but not come up with the ball?”
With the clock winding down, the Orangemen kept pounding the ball inside, and the Tigers couldn’t find a way to catch up.
All Boeheim’s crew had to do to close out the game was grab rebounds.
“When you can’t stop them, it’s tough to get anything going,” Snyder said. “Defensively, we just had breakdown after breakdown, mental breakdowns.
“They beat us to loose balls and a lot of one-handed rebounds. If we’re not tougher in those situations, we’re not going to beat a team like this.”