This recap is the first installment of our Syracuse basketball rewatch series. Today’s recap features Syracuse’s 2004 NCAA Tournament opening round win over BYU. If you missed the introduction to this series, click here for more background information.
Denver, Colo. (via the TNIAAM time machine) — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team advanced past the BYU Cougars as Jim Boeheim’s club erased an 11-point first half deficit to advance by a final score of 80-75.
Gerry McNamara poured in a career-high 43 points on 9-13 shooting from beyond the arc and Syracuse avoided the 5 vs. 12 seed upset to advance to the Second Round for the second consecutive year.
“Some guy wrote an article today about nobody scoring points. I guess Gerry must’ve read that today,” Boeheim said, who picked up his 675th career victory.
Syracuse started McNamara, Josh Pace, Demetris Nichols, Hakim Warrick and Craig Forth. Both teams started off hot offensively as BYU got going behind Mike Hall’s three straight 3s, taking an early 9-7 lead. Syracuse made its first five shot attempts, but the Cougars commanded the lead by starting 5/6 from three-point land.
Syracuse found itself in hot water in the first as Warrick picked up his third foul at the 7:01 mark. From there, BYU jumped out to a 35-24 lead. With the Orange’s leading scorer out of the game with foul trouble, Boeheim went with an unconventional move. The head coach came out of his patented 2-3 zone and matched up man-to-man.
The switch in defensive strategy sparked a 16-5 run to close the half as McNamara carried his team with 28 first half points. Syracuse fans broke out in chants of Gerry! Gerry! Gerry! after McNamara nailed his sixth three of the half, the same number of triples he hit in the Nation Championship game against Kansas less than one year ago.
“Gerry’s known to make a few shots,” Boeheim said at the intermission. “We just gotta get Hak back in the game. They’re a very good basketball team. We’re going to have to play a great second half.”
A free throw-line jumper by Nichols completed Syracuse’s run just before the break and both teams went into the half with the score knotted at 42.
Warrick started the second half despite being in foul trouble and established himself right away with a defensive rebound and two scores along the baseline on the other end of the floor.
With the game knotted 54-54, BYU big man Rafael Araujo picked up his fourth foul at the 14:21 mark. Syracuse went on a run without the Cougars’ star in the game as Nichols connected on a triple right away. A Warrick steal on the ensuing possession led to a McNamara three in transition as Syracuse scored six unanswered points.
BYU’s troika of bigs all had four fouls with just under 10 minutes to play. At that juncture, Araujo reentered the contest and BYU began to chip into the Orange lead.
Syracuse looked to keep the Cougars at bay down the stretch as Warrick found Forth for a dunk, but Cougar senior Mark Bigelow nailed a triple to get within two points with just over four minutes remaining. Boeheim stuck with man-to-man defense throughout the second half.
BYU came back to take the lead as Araujo gave his team a 73-72 edge on a put-back dunk. The Cougars looked to steal momentum with the slam, but Warrick responded on the next possession with a bank from the low block to give the lead right back to Syracuse. A defensive stand from SU set the stage for McNamara’s ninth and final three, which gave the Orange a 77-73 edge with just over two minutes remaining.
Bigelow finished underneath to make it a one possession game again and after trading defensive stops, BYU had a chance to tie or take the lead with 32 seconds remaining. Bigelow found himself wide open for a three, but missed and was forced to foul McNamara; he made both and gave Syracuse a 79-75 lead with 16.2 remaining.
A final miss from BYU fell in the hands of McNamara, who was once again fouled. He missed the first, made the second and put the game out of reach with 6.7 seconds left.
Boeheim said of McNamara after the game, “He got tired but even when he’s tired I’d rather have him in the game trying to shoot it. I’ve never seen anybody put on a show like he did in the first half. He was making everything from five, six feet behind the line. We needed every shot because they came out and just blitzed us against our zone. I give our guys credit because we haven’t played much man-to-man.”
McNamara led all scorers with 43 points. Warrick finished with 20 points. Nichols had 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
BYU out-rebounded Syracuse 32-20. Syracuse shot 53.3% from the floor and 68.8% from three. BYU shot 47.3% from the floor and 38.5% from three.