The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team looked dead on the water against Notre Dame on Saturday. Trailing by as much as 20 in the second half the game was seemingly out of reach.
But junior guard Buddy Boeheim erupted for a career-high 29 points that propelled Syracuse’s 23-2 run that got the Orange back in it. The inflection point happened when Jim Boeheim inserted Kadary Richmond and Robert Braswell into the game and turned to his press. The Orange eventually erased the 20 point deficit and won 75-67.
Marek Dolezaj and Richmond made some key plays to begin the run, but Boeheim’s shooting elevated Syracuse. He authorized the team’s first lead of the game.
In the early going, Boeheim kept Syracuse afloat as he started 3-3 from the floor to match Notre Dame’s hot shooting. He made a layup, a turnaround fade in the lane and buried a triple from the right wing on a handoff from Dolezaj.
Another turnaround jumper gave Boeheim nine first half points, but the Syracuse defense couldn’t stop Notre Dame’s offensive onslaught. The Irish dissected the 2-3 zone and led 46-32 at the half.
Out of the intermission, Notre Dame extended its lead to as much as 20 until Syracuse righted the ship. Albeit against a lesser defensive team, Boeheim got hot from distance during the stretch. He credited the Syracuse press for changing momentum. It disrupted Notre Dame’s half-court offense, too, with less time to work with on the shot clock. “We got steals, deflections. Made them rush. Made them take shots that they probably would’ve used some clock before they took it,” Buddy Boeheim said post-game.
He also credited his teammates, who secured second chance opportunities and found him for open shots. But Boeheim knocked down his attempts from range.
“I just think I got some really good looks and it felt good to finally see some go down,” He said. “It was a lot of fun getting to the rim, drawing fouls. Being aggressive. That was the biggest thing I think and just never losing confidence because my teammates believe in me.”
Boeheim’s shooting barrage came in the second half as he knocked down five 3s. His fourth triple of the night came with the shot clock winding down that got Syracuse to within four. His fifth triple from about 25 feet out gave Syracuse a 60-59 lead, the first of the game for the Orange. Syracuse wouldn’t trail again the rest of the way. Boeheim’s sixth and final three gave Syracuse a 71-63 lead with 2:13 to play that all but sealed the deal.
“When you get in a rhythm — like in the second half I felt like I was in a good rhythm — just any space you know it’s going up,” He said.
Boeheim hasn’t had a particular good shooting year by his standards. Last year he led the power five in made 3s (97) on 37.0% outside shooting. People have short memories, according to Jim Boeheim, who said: “He led the ACC in 3-point field goal percentage and 3 point field goals made last year. He hasn’t changed. If anything I think he’s a better shooter this year. But teams are just playing him really hard.”
The junior’s shooting stroke has been important to Syracuse over the last five games. Boeheim has shot 16-32 from deep in that stretch and Syracuse has won four of those contests. Syracuse is 6-1 when he makes three 3s or more. He’s elevated his 3-point shooting percentage up to 33.9% on the season. Jim Boeheim suggests that everybody has face-guarded him, but that’s why Dolezaj and Quincy Guerrier have room to operate in the paint.
“It’s really been hard for him to get shots,” The coach said. “He’s shooting 50 percent on open 3s. The problem is we cant get him any open 3s.”
Boeheim got open looks on Saturday and knocked them down. Nobody is mistaking Notre Dame for a good defensive team, but Boeheim’s shooting was vital on Saturday. The 20 point comeback win kept Syracuse’s goal of earning an NCAA Tournament bid alive.
“Down whatever it was, we just got to leave it out there. If we lose, we lose. But you can’t live with the results if you don’t go 100%. So we just said ‘alright, we’re going to go play’ and that’s what we did. It feels good to be able to come back like that,” Boeheim finished.