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first_img Published on March 9, 2016 at 5:26 pm Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse WASHINGTON — Frank Howard picked up his dribble and locked his eyes on Michael Gbinije. That was the start of his mistake.Then he threw the ball without ever seeing James Robinson dart into the passing lane. That was the brunt of it. Then Robinson dribbled down the court, sidestepped past Howard and converted a layup to give Pittsburgh a two-point lead it never gave up. That was the result.“I should have taken Frank Howard out of the game, but I just thought that he had been playing well,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I should have taken him out and put Trevor back in. It was my mistake.”Before that costly turnover — which came with the game tied and 1:08 left — Howard was at the center of Syracuse’s (19-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) comeback in a heartbreaking 72-71 loss to Pittsburgh (21-10, 9-9) in the second round of the ACC tournament at the Verizon Center on Wednesday. He tied a game-high with five assists and, just by being in the game, allowed Michael Gbinije to work off the ball and pace the Orange with 24 points. His length played a key part in SU’s full-court press, which kickstarted a game-tying 14-2 run in the final 4:18.But the late turnover, despite having a small effect on his final line, remains the most memorable play of his performance.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“As a point guard you have to see it,” Howard said. “If you don’t make that play at that time of the game, I feel like, it hurts.”Howard played 18 minutes while Trevor Cooney — who eventually missed a game-winning 3 attempt in the final seconds — played a season-low a season-low 24. Boeheim said Cooney wasn’t hurt, and Cooney said he wasn’t given an explanation for the decreased time and sitting for most of the second half. Whatever the reason, it put Howard at the head of the Orange’s offense in crunch time of his first-ever postseason game.He handled it precociously, loosening Pittsburgh’s air-tight man-to-man defense with consistent penetration. That freed up Gbinije and Malachi Richardson on the wings, and Richardson particularly used that space to attack closing-out defenders off the dribble. He also created opportunities for Dajuan Coleman, who finished with 11 points and 11 rebonds, off passes and on the offensive glass.“Coach always tells me he wants me to play downhill, go to the basket,” Howard said. “That’s what I really try to do, just try to make sure I get past someone and make a play or finish at the rim. That’s basically it.”And when Syracuse needed him to facilitate to the best of his ability, Howard was sure Gbinije was in clear space. A split second before, Gbinije had run around an off-ball screen and Howard said he expected Robinson to “play Gbinije’s hip,” which would have allowed him to comfortably fit a pass in.Instead, Robinson surprised Howard by leaving Gbinije and stepping into the passing lane. A play drawn up for Gbinije quickly sped the other way. It was the first domino to fall in an eventual one-point loss, which could put Syracuse on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble come Selection Sunday.“He’s a young talent, and hopefully we’ll need him in the future,” said Gbinije, smirking uneasily at the Orange’s murky Tournament hopes. “So you just want to tell him next play. I know he’s good, I know he’s a confident guy. He’s probably ready to bounce back.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more