SYRACUSE — Syracuse University men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim has consistently emphasized that his young team has lots of work to do throughout the early portion of the season, and Tuesday night served as yet another startling reminder.
The Orange fell victim to a large second-half run and received minimal production from its struggling backcourt during a 68-54 loss to Iowa as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday night in front of 20,844 fans at the Carrier Dome.
The Orange lost its third straight game and fell to 4-4 overall for its worst start in Boeheim’s 44-year tenure as head coach. The last time SU sported a winning percentage of .500 or below eight games into the season came in 1968 when it opened with a 3-5 mark.
“It’s not fun,” SU freshman point guard Joe Girard III said. “Losing three games in a row isn’t fun and if you’re all right with it, you probably shouldn’t be playing competitive sports.”
He added: “We were having fun at the beginning of the year, we were scoring a lot of points and getting out and running. It starts with getting stops on defense, and when we were getting out and running it looked like we were having fun, and we were. We got to get back to doing that.”
SU has lost each of its last three games by 14 points or more after suffering back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Penn State at the NIT Season Tipoff in Brooklyn last week. SU is also winless in four games against opponents from a power-five conference.
SU will look to bounce back while improving on its 0-1 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference when it plays a conference game at Georgia Tech in its next outing, scheduled for noon on Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and the four teams we’ve lost to are just bigger, stronger and better than we are,” Boeheim said. “We’re going to have to work hard to get better, but it’s obvious to me, we can play a little better than we are but those four teams are clearly better than we are. We’ve got to get better.”
Iowa center Luka Garza controlled the paint on both ends and scored a game-high 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting, and also grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes (6-2). Jordan Bohannon added 17 points, including five 3-pointers, and Joe Wieskamp added 13 points for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes led at halftime, 30-29, following a competitive first half that featured 12 lead changes, but they quickly asserted their control after the break. They made 10 of their first 16 shots after halftime and eventually went on a 14-0 run that spanned five minutes. Iowa held a 56-41 advantage by the time SU ended that scoring drought and led by double figures the rest of the way.
“We need to help each other, that’s probably the biggest thing now,” SU junior Elijah Hughes said. “We need to help each other with screens, getting each other open, and getting better looks for everybody. ... We just need to make sure guys’ heads are up and get ready for Atlanta. We have Georgia Tech next.”
Marek Dolezaj and Hughes led SU in scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Hughes shot just 3 of 13 and scored nine points below his season average while adding seven rebounds and two blocks.
His offensive struggles added to those of a scuffling starting backcourt that shot a combined 4-for-18. Girard III made just 2 of 8 shots and went 0-for-4 from behind the arc for a six-point outing after being held scoreless until late in the second half while fellow starter Buddy Boeheim went 2-for-10, including a 1-for-5 mark from deep, to add just seven points for half of his season average.
Freshman reserve guard Brycen Goodine went 0-for-2 with two turnovers to just one assist in his 14 minutes off the bench, and SU went to junior guard Howard Washington for a spark early in the second half to no avail.
“They’ve just got to keep shooting,” Jim Boeheim said of his starting guards. “They’re good shooters, they have struggled the last three games against better defenses, tougher shots, but we can do a better job of screening for them and getting them better shots. We don’t have an alternative right now.”