No. 5 Syracuse’s reliance on Ben Williams costs it in 16-15 overtime loss to No. 11 Duke

first_img Published on March 26, 2016 at 5:15 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman DURHAM, N.C. — Ben Williams leaned into the game’s last faceoff in a familiar spot. Game tied. Overtime. His chance to permanently turn the game’s momentum with one clamp of his stick.His final faceoff last week against Johns Hopkins came on the heels of a game-tying goal by the Blue Jays with 38 seconds left in regulation. Williams had his chance, but the ball never touched an SU stick after he let Hunter Moreland scoop up the faceoff. Game over.On Saturday SU’s junior faceoff specialist kneeled on the dirt patch at midfield for the 28th time — the four-minute overtime period ready to start at the flinch of his stick after the Orange blew a four-goal, fourth-quarter lead. Williams had his chance, but Kyle Rowe streaked away from the X with the game-winning goal in his stick. Game over.Williams still won 12 faceoffs in his toughest test of the season, but once again couldn’t grab ahold of the game when it stared back at him on the X.“That’s a great question,” head coach John Desko said when asked about Williams’ ability to win a game-changing faceoff. “He gets us the ball early and puts us in that position.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We’ve got to learn to play when we don’t have the ball.”That was the paramount issue for a Syracuse team that watched Duke win 19-of-34 faceoffs, by far the most of any opponent the Orange has faced this year. SU didn’t have the ball when it mattered most, and No. 11 Duke (7-4, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) scored five unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to eventually topple No. 5 Syracuse (5-2, 1-1), 16-15, in overtime on Saturday afternoon in Koskinen Stadium.Blue Devils midfielder Deemer Class punished the Orange for a career-high seven-goals. Three of those came in a 12-minute, fourth-quarter scoring drought for SU that foreshadowed the game-ending shot placed in by Chad Cohan less than a minute into overtime.“Very much like last week,” Desko said, “we didn’t learn how to close it out.”“(Duke) started to win some faceoffs, especially after goals … We’ve got to learn to play like that.”The scoreless stretch was the product of nearly a winless fourth quarter at the X. Williams lost four of his five opportunities, and in a last-ditch effort to inject life into the offense, backup Cal Paduda lost his only real chance after a Duke faceoff violation gave SU the ball earlier.Williams’ sustained success over the last year and a half has allowed Syracuse to flourish offensively, freely taking a high volume of shots knowing he was a sure bet to get the ball back on the faceoff. On Saturday the Orange instead had to rely on groundballs, which it was beat 35-32 on, and turnovers to create offensive possessions.After picking up a groundball on a clear attempt, Derek DeJoe ended the scoring drought with a low-slung laser that Blue Devils goalie Danny Fowler appeared to stop, then tap in as he turned around to see where the ball was. It knotted the score at 15 in the last three minutes, with a four-goal lead 12 minutes prior a distant memory.“When you tend to have a lead, some people mentally might feel a little more relaxed,” senior defender Brandon Mullins said. “I guess we just have to do a better job keeping the foot on the gas.”Williams had his chance to freeze the meltdown, but let the ball, and Rowe, slip out of his reach. All game he was sandwiched between Duke’s physical wings, a repeated beating that didn’t lend itself kindly to his performance at the end of the game.Syracuse blew it’s chance to win on the final possession of regulation, and despite a fitting end to disastrous fourth quarter, the ledger reset when Williams took a knee for the opening faceoff in overtime.But the lifeblood of the Orange offense, even with only three goals to his name this season, couldn’t score where he had the chance. At the X.“Ben’s a great player,” SU’s points leader, Dylan Donaue said. “He’s going to have a couple of off days.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more