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Hughes Return Not Enough To Down #8 FSU

The Syracuse men’s basketball team lost 80-77 to Florida State. After missing the majority of the last game with a lower-body injury, Elijah Hughes returned for the Orange and was very productive. The transfer Junior led all scorers with 25 points and shot 50% from the floor. Florida State also came into the game with lineup questions. Leading scorer Devin Vassell missed the entire game. It did not appear to be a health issue, however, Leonard Hamilton declined to answer questions about Vassell’s status after the game.

The game was close throughout. Neither team led by more than eight points in the first half. Syracuse struggled to find its footing offensively. The Orange shot 37.5% from the field in the first frame. Similarly, Florida State could not find the bottom of the basket. The Seminoles shot just over 40% from the field in the first half, but they made their shots count. FSU shot 7-for-14 from beyond the arc and took a 41-33 lead into the half.

The Orange started the second half on an 11-4 run. A couple of Elijah Hughes threes and Bourama Sidibe free throws had Syracuse trailing 45-44 with 16:06 remaining in the game. Then, the Seminoles began to heat up. Over the next four minutes, they mounted a 10-0 run, with the last five points all coming from Trent Forrest. Florida State took a 55-44 lead with 12:44 on the clock.

Syracuse brought the deficit back to single digits in the minutes after the run. Joe Girard III hit a big transition three and the Orange were right back in it. With under seven minutes left, the Orange took control. JG3 hit a lay-up to tie it and then a three 20 seconds later. Girard finished the game with 22 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there.

Syracuse G Joe Girard III (11) attempts a three-pointer.

Syracuse led 62-59 with 5:40 remaining. It was the first lead the Orange had since they were up 29-27 with 5:03 left in the first half. Syracuse’s lead peaked at four, but within minutes of taking the lead, the Orange were on the back foot once again. As he did all game, MJ Walker made a massive shot for the Seminoles. Down 69-66 with just over two and a half minutes left, Walker nailed a three plus-the-foul and converted the four-point play to take the lead. The Junior scored 16 points and shot 5-9 from three-point range.

The lead flip-flopped a couple of times before FSU took control. Elijah Hughes put up a 30-foot prayer as time expired, but it rattled out, and the Orange lost once again. A game that could have done so much for the tournament resume for Syracuse is now another loss in a disappointing season.

One of the positives for Syracuse was the play of Freshman Quincy Guerrier. The Montréal native scored 13 points in 22 minutes while only missing a single field goal. In the first 22 games of the season, Guerrier averaged just 6.1 points per game. In the last three games, he has averaged 10.7 points. On the negative side, Syracuse was manhandled on the glass. Florida State outrebounded the ‘Cuse 47-29. The Seminoles grabbed 20 offensive rebounds compared to 10 by the Orange.

Quincy Guerrier (1) looks across the floor.

Syracuse has a tough road ahead to reach the tournament after losing to Florida State. The Orange take on #5 Louisville on Wednesday. It will likely be the last opponent Syracuse faces that is ranked inside the AP Top 25. While the ACC tournament is a possibility, the Orange likely need to beat the Cardinals to stay in the tournament conversation. Syracuse (7-7) is in the middle of the pack in the ACC standings and has a worse overall record than many of the teams it is tied with.

Syracuse and Louisville tip-off at 7 p.m. this Wednesday. Coverage begins on WAER at 6:30.