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Cole Swider steps up in Syracuse win over Wake Forest: ‘I still believe in this team’

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Cole Swider emerged with his best shooting performance in a Syracuse uniform.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team cruised past the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 94-72 in Saturday’s matchup in large part due to the play of Buddy Boeheim and the shot-making of Cole Swider.

Swider finished the night with 18 points on an efficient 8-11 shooting, including 2-2 from outside, to go with four rebounds. He was just three points off his career-high, a 21 point effort over Cornell. Jim Boeheim said it was the best the Villanova transfer has played at Syracuse.

“He got to his spot. He made the turnaround,” The head coach said. “He’s been getting in there and not shooting it. Today he got in there and shot it. He’s a good shooter. He can make that play.”

Swider scored from all three levels against Wake. He scored inside, he hit a pair of 3s and perhaps most effectively, he got to the mid-range, found space and elevated over smaller defenders.

“He got mismatches, was able to back (his defender) down and that turnaround is tough. He’s 6-9 and not many people can get that. He did a great job of getting to his spot and we just played off each other, had a lot of fun out there,” Buddy Boeheim said.

Midway through the second half, Swider all but put Wake Forest away with four consecutive made shots. First a rebound and put-back gave Syracuse a 15-point lead. Then — after a Jesse Edwards layup — an emphatic transition dunk brought the Carrier Dome crowd to its feet and forced a timeout. He followed that up with a made three from corner as he pump-faked, got his defender to bite, used one escape dribble left, pulled up and buried it. On the next play, he elevated over Carter Whitt from 15-feet that once again gave Syracuse a 19-point lead.

“He played great tonight. Absolutely great. I expect him to continue this and to play even better as we move down the stretch,” Jim Boeheim said.

Swider’s dunk was the biggest play of the night that had the largest crowd of the college basketball season at is loudest. After the play he was as demonstrative as he’s been in a Syracuse uniform. Wake Forest’s Steve Forbes was forced to call a timeout in an attempt to quell the momentum and quiet the raucous crowd.

It was as simple as Swider running the floor and finishing the play, sure. But the moment felt much bigger than that.

“I think this team’s been through a lot of ups and downs,” Swider began in a serious tone. “I think we’ve lost a lot of close games. I think everyone is counting us out, saying we’re the worst Syracuse team ever and how we’re not any good. I still believe in this team. Obviously everyone has a job to do, everyone has to report.

“I’m really passionate about this team. I’m really passionate about this school. I’m really passionate about playing for Coach Boeheim and to kind of have that dunk to put us up 19, kind of take their hearts, that was huge for me and huge for the confidence of this team.”

Following the dunk, Swider was all emotion. With long strides, he motioned toward Jesse Edwards with vigor and flexed at the big man.

Said Swider of the response, “It was a lot of emotion because this year has been tough. We lost a lot of close games. We lost games we felt like we could’ve won, including Wake Forest.”

The Orange have had their struggles with four league losses that all came within two possessions or less, including an overtime loss in Winston-Salem. Syracuse had led by two with 10 seconds left with possession of the ball, but a turnover allowed Dallas Walton to force overtime with a dunk and eventually a Syracuse loss in extra time.

This time around Syracuse sealed the win with its largest margin of victory in a month. It’s no coincidence that it came after Swider had his best shooting night of the season. With the team in desperate need of another player to consistently step up alongside Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse is hoping Swider has arrived.

“This is the way that I feel he can play,” Jim Boeheim finished.