The Syracuse Orange struggled from the start of their Sweet Sixteen game against the Houston Cougars. Trailing 12-5 after the first 7:30 of the game, Jim Boeheim turned to sophomore center Jesse Edwards. After Houston’s Tramon Mark hit a 3 to make it 15-5, the Orange went on a 15-8 run of their own to close to 23-20 with 2:20 to play in the half.
Edwards contributed three points, two rebounds and two blocks during his 10-minute stretch on the court. With him in the middle of the zone, Houston shot 4- 14 from the field and committed three turnovers. The Orange defense was controlling the game while the Syracuse offense found room in the lane to score or get to the foul line.
It looked like Syracuse had weathered the early struggles and was going to go into the half feeling good about their position. Unfortunately in the final 2:20 of the half the Orange failed to hit a shot and Houston took a 30-20 lead into the break. That stretch sure seemed like it changed the complexion of the game even if Jim Boeheim didn’t agree.
Jim Boeheim is asked why Jesse Edwards was taken out in the first half: “That’s why they went on that run. He was tired, okay? Really. That’s just unbelievable. That’s normal for Syracuse people.”— James Szuba (@JamesSzuba) March 28, 2021
Maybe Edwards was tired but he was yanked at a media timeout and there were opportunities for him to re-enter before the half.
Edwards also had no fouls at the time so he had no concerns in that area. Even with the halftime deficit Edwards remained on the bench to start the second half entering the game with 15:55 to play and with the Orange down 12. Right away Syracuse went on a quick 5-0 run which could have been more but two missed 3’s on one possession by Joe Girard stalled the momentum for the moment. Syracuse eventually cut the lead to 4 but couldn’t get over the hump as Houston pulled away down the stretch.
Edwards finished with five points, six rebounds and two blocks. During the three games in the NCAA Tournament he provided the Syracuse zone with an inside presence and if he can continue to make strides on the offensive end he could be the center the Orange needs in 21-22.