Senior faceoff specialist Ben Williams continues to struggle at the X

first_img Published on April 4, 2017 at 10:31 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21 Syracuse’s most important player has slipped into mediocrity.Amid the worst stretch of his career, perhaps brought on by a nagging injury, SU senior faceoff specialist Ben Williams has won only 52 percent of his chances at the X. The 2016 Tewaaraton Award Nominee has posted a 50-percent faceoff success rate or worse in four of his last five games. He had a career-worst 4-of-18 day against Duke before freshman Danny Varello replaced him. Last week at then-No. 1 Notre Dame, Williams lost three of the first four faceoffs of the game and finished only 10-of-23 in the upset victory.For years, Williams has given the Orange a sense of ease. In his sophomore and junior years, he delivered game after game with few blemishes. Yet a slow start has extended into a disappointing season, which SU head coach John Desko attributes to his FOGO’s injury. Williams gets another chance to step back on track for the No. 2 Orange (7-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast), which visits unranked Hobart (4-5, 1-1 Northeast) on Wednesday night.“He’s a little banged up,” Hobart head coach Greg Raymond said. “Maybe that has a little to do with it. I don’t think there’s anything going on with him … Opponents find ways to infiltrate ways of him getting into a groove and make him not as comfortable.”Four faceoffs into Saturday’s contest against UND, Williams looked like he did the week prior, when he posted a career-worst day in a near loss to Duke. Saturday, despite his slow start, Williams strung together four of the last five faceoffs in the first half. It set up a Syracuse transition goal and several lengthy possessions, allowing SU to work its offense and take a two-goal lead headed into the break. When Williams clicks, so does Syracuse.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut Notre Dome scored three unanswered third-quarter goals to erase a three-score deficit headed into the final frame. Williams lost 4-of-5 faceoffs during that period, allowing UND to dominate possession and score four goals in the quarter.“He started out well,” Desko said after the 11-10 win over UND. “He did a really nice job getting the ball out to himself … They tried to muck things up in there and try to slow Benny from getting out clean.“Then their double poles, anytime that happens, you’re going to make it hard for us to get the ball.”Williams’ struggles at the X can’t be attributed to one reason. His lingering injury could fuel this trend, though the roots may run deeper. Duke head coach John Danowski said veteran faceoff specialists wear down toward the end of their college careers. Fortunately for SU, the offense capitalized on 15 Duke turnovers to overshadow Williams’ career-worst game, a near-Blue Devils win if not for a Jamie Trimboli game-winner in overtime.SU ranks a mere 27th in faceoff winning percentage. Whether Williams’ struggles signify a more prolonged downturn and whether the Orange uses more of Varello, who’s 20-of-30 from the X and has drawn rave reviews from teammates, remains to be seen. Williams still has five regular-season games, an ACC tournament and possible NCAA tournament to fully recover from the injury that sidelined him for SU’s only loss of the year. He can still redeem his underwhelming performance.“It’s just a matter of him getting his technique back,” Desko said.The SU offense has scored goals at the right times. Its defense has shut down some of the best attackmen in the country, which came Saturday in UND stud Ryder Garnsey. A healthy Williams would make Syracuse, two wins away from its best start since 2011, even more dangerous down the stretch.“He’s a beast,” Raymond said. “We’re still preparing for him like he’s the best one in the country.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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