Boeheim’s Army opened their first game in The Basketball Tournament with a come-from-behind victory over We Are D3, winning 68-65 after trailing by as many as 14 in the first quarter.
I’m going to get this out of the way now... the early portion of this game was ugly for Boeheim’s Army. Missed shots. Missed assignments. Missed opportunities.
The game started a little sluggish right off the bat, with Jordan Crawford missing an open three, but Boeheim’s Army quickly rebounded with a wide open layup by Arinze Onuaku on the second possession. Hakim Warrick followed up the next time down the court with a nasty head fake that sent him to the line, where he converted both for a 4-0 lead.
We Are D3 tied it up with a layup and a floater in the lane, and then took the lead with a bank from 10 feet, and looked to go up 8-4 before Onuaku made a brilliant chase down block to save a basket.
Unfortunately, D3 kept the pressure and drained back-to-back-to-back threes to extend their lead to 17-8 early. The zone just wasn’t able to contain penetration, and slow collapses led to open shooters who hit their shots, while Boeheim’s Army couldn’t buy a 3 early, missing their first five attempts.
Coach Ryan Blackwell made adjustments, and on the next possession Boeheim’s Army went man-to-man, instantly forcing a turnover and changing up the tempo of the game. BJ Johnson and Eric Devendorf each hit a pair of free throws to close the gap, but We Are D3 had an answer, and doubled up Boeheim’s Army at 24-12 with a minute left in the game, then extended it to 14 on the next possession.
Finally, Devendorf hit a 3 to end the run and the first quarter ended with a 26-15 lead for We Are D3.
Michael Gbinije opened the second quarter with a nice dunk, and two quick turnovers by We Are D3 allowed Boeheim’s Army a chance, but wide open misses continued to plague them into the second quarter. They just couldn’t seem to capitalize on their opportunities, and the whole team looked very sluggish and a bit shell shocked.
There was one point where Syracuse players were blocked on three consecutive possessions. Everyone looked tentative and afraid to go up strong, not a good look, especially against a team that should have been clearly outmatched athletically.
Thankfully, things finally started to click for Boeheim’s Army towards the end of the second quarter. They were able to close the gap to 32-27 with four minutes left, and get it to 35-31 with two minutes to go with some hard nosed defense and solid rebounding.
Free throws by John Gillon (aka “Mr. Automatic”) on the next possession cut it to two, and another two with 20 seconds left cut the lead to one, and the half ended 37-35 in favor of We Are D3.
The defensive intensity in the second quarter was the key to the Orange getting back in the game. They forced several turnovers and really hounded their opponents all over the court, leading to several turnovers that turned into quick buckets.
Here’s a not-so-fun-fact... SU shot 37% in the first half, including 1-7 from 3 point range. Yikes.
The second half opened up a bit better, with a tip in from Warrick to tie it up at 37. The next several minutes the team’s traded buckets, but Syracuse still looked completely out of sorts, making lazy passes and not closing out on shooters.
Jordan Crawford proved why he was recruited to the team, hitting back-to-back threes, the second of which he converted into the rare four point play to tie the game at 46, and then another a couple minutes later to give Boeheim’s Army their first lead at 51-48.
Gbinije hit another three on the next possession to extend the lead to 6 at 54-48, which is where the 3rd quarter wrapped up. Finally, the team started hitting their open shots, and combined with some lockdown defense, were able to build a bit of a lead heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter started off with two straight buckets by We Are D3 to cut the lead to two, before Jordan Crawford righted the ship with a driving layup to extend back to four at 56-52. A three by Milligan cut that to one with just over six minutes left.
The game went back and forth from that point until the Elam Ending kicked in, with Syracuse leading 60-56, putting the score for the win at 68 points for either team.
On the next possession, Devendorf (or “Dumbledorf”, as my niece Kaelyn called him) got blocked on a layup, but on the ensuing inbounds play, Warrick threw down a monster jam to cut the necessary points needed to six.
After a pair of free throws by We Are D3, Crawford hit a floater to make it 64-58. A three cut the deficit in half, but a driving layup attempt by Devendorf put him at the line for two and a chance to cut the magic number to two points.
First shot... swish. Second shot... good. Two points to win. That’s it.
On the next possession for We Are D3, they missed a wide open three, opening the door for the win.
Crawford brings the ball up... lobs it to Warrick for the dunk... but he’s fouled and can’t convert the shot!
First free throw... good!
Second free throw, with a chance to close it out... missed! The door was wiiiiiiiiiide open, and D3 responded with a three, cutting the lead to 67-64.
Crawford missed an open jumper on the next possession, but thankfully, a 1-2 free throw trip for D3 kept the lead for SU at 67-65.
On the next trip down the court, Warrick made a beautiful drive down the lane, but got caught in the air with nothing to do with it. A jump ball was called. According to my nephew Michael, who is wise beyond his years, it was the wrong call. I tend to agree... but we might be slightly biased.
SU inbounded and immediately struggled to get a shot up. Thankfully, they were bailed out by a foul call, sending Crawford to the line for the win.
First shot... MISS.
Oh geez, is this really happening?
Second shot... he makes it! SU WINS!
Whew, that was nail-biter, but thankfully Boeheim’s Army pulled it out in the end with a 68-65 victory. Far too close for comfort, but a win is win.
MVP of the game goes to Jordan Crawford, hands down.
We’ll have coverage the rest of the way as Boeheim’s Army tips off against Gael Nation tomorrow at noon.