Streaky shooting, limited repertoire have defined Elijah Hughes’ ‘great season’

first_img Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 28, 2019 at 12:01 am Contact Matthew: | @MatthewGut21center_img CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — If there were a science to Elijah Hughes’ shot, he doesn’t regard it.  Sharpshooter Buddy Boeheim sometimes alters his rise or release when his shots aren’t going, and he may aim for the front of the rim if he’s missing too strong. Sophomore forward Oshae Brissett tweaked his jumper based on instruction from coaches. In his downtime, senior point guard Frank Howard studies his moves on film. He once noticed something in his shot that he didn’t like, so he changed his form. But Hughes doesn’t give much thought to his quick and high release, even in shooting slumps. The newest addition to Syracuse (18-10, 9-6 Atlantic Coast) is the team’s best 3-point shooter, and his ability to stretch the floor is key for Syracuse. He’d rather not consider that. He just wants to shoot.  “I don’t try to think when I’m out there playing,” Hughes said. “If I’m open, shoot the ball. That’s it.” In his first season at Syracuse, Hughes has progressed slower than head coach Jim Boeheim had anticipated. He’s developed a reputation as a fairly reliable scorer with hot and cold spells from deep.  AdvertisementThis is placeholder text At No. 5 North Carolina on Tuesday night, he drilled 5-of-7 of his first-half 3-pointers. He didn’t score in the second half, though, because UNC pressured him on the perimeter. The Tar Heels had taken away his strength.   Hughes relies on his jab step to create separation from deep, but he doesn’t create off the dribble or get by defenders. Boeheim said after Tuesday’s 93-85 loss Hughes spaces the floor and adds a new dimension to what has become a perimeter-oriented offense. Together, he and Buddy have formed a shooting duo that bolsters an SU offense without an interior presence. He’s become the Orange’s second-best scorer (13.8 points per game), and third-best rebounder (4.4) and shot-blocker (0.7), starting all 27 games.  “He’s got to be able to go by people, put the ball on the floor,” Boeheim said. “People are going to push up on him. He’s a good shooter. “You have to look and understand he didn’t play last year,” Boeheim continued. “His freshman year, he was hurt a lot. He didn’t really play a lot on a bad team that really doesn’t even help you that much.”  Last spring, Syracuse associate head coach Adrian Autry said Hughes was a vital missing piece to last year’s team. To Autry, Hughes would give Syracuse “the most talent we’ve had in a long time.”  At 6-foot-6, his length not only helps defensively — he compiles highlight-reel blocks — but also shooting on offense against guards and smaller forwards. His catch-and-shoot nature leads to no trouble taking contested 3s from a few feet beyond the line. Hughes converts at a 35.8-percent clip from 3.  In the first half Tuesday night, Hughes was the lone “hot hand.” His 15 points nearly accounted for a third of SU’s total points, and the Orange combined for a 30 percent mark from 3 outside of Hughes. He knows making a previous shot doesn’t make him more likely to make his next shot. Likewise, missing a shot — or two, three or four in a row — doesn’t mean he’ll miss his next one. “He’s a big-shot maker,” said Buddy, who shoots 35.7 percent from 3. “He was making tough shots early. And once he gets his confidence going, he’s going to make tough shots. Once he gets hot, you have to find him.” Throughout the season, Hughes’ success has become at times a necessity for the Orange to stay in games. His then-career day against Notre Dame led to SU’s first ACC win, which came on the road. Hughes added 22 points on six 3s against Miami, and 18 first-half points in an upset over then-No. 1 Duke.  But sometimes Hughes’ goes cold. He made 1-of-6 shots in the second half and overtime against Duke on Jan. 14. The same was on display against No. 5 North Carolina. Hughes missed both of his shots, clanked two crucial free throws midway through the final frame and fouled out before game’s end. North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said the Tar Heels located shooters and pushed up their defense, while Hughes said he “kind of stopped being aggressive in the second half.”   In his first full season of college basketball, Hughes is still adjusting to where he fits in the offense and the type of player he can be. He’s proven he’s a reliable scoring option and the best 3-point shooter on the team. At least when he’s heating up.  “I think he’s having a great year,” Boeheim said. “But he’s not ready yet to go by people off the dribble. I think he will get that. He doesn’t have it right now.” last_img