It took overtime to do it, but the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team handled the Richmond Spiders by a final score of 74-71 in the Empire Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Joe Girard led the way by setting a new career-high with 31 points while his starting backcourt mate Judah Mintz tallied 16 points and dished out four assists. Despite being limited in the first half with two fouls, Jesse Edwards scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked six shots. Chris Bell also scored in double-figures with 11 points on 3-5 outside shooting.
Syracuse went into the half with a 34-29 lead largely thanks to the shooting of Girard. Two Syracuse freshmen also grew a bit in Brooklyn as the first-year starters made big shots down the stretch. Bell made a jumper with 1:56 remaining in overtime to break the tie. Mintz then had a pump-fake and layup to give Syracuse a 72-68 lead with less than a minute left, creating separation that ultimately led to the win in extra time.
With that, we move to the takeaways.
Joe Girard Volume Shooter badge
Was there really any doubt that Joe Girard had the green light this year?
He went into his bag early in this one, first on a drive and scoop to put him on the board before he calmly poured in a triple for his second bucket. He got into rhythm early. He hit shots from mid-range (mostly catch and shoot), he had a spin and finish on the break and another crafty lefty lay on a backdoor cut, all the way to 21 first half point on 9-13 shooting.
@JG3_____ with 21 first half points!— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) November 22, 2022
With added defensive attention in the second half, Girard cooled off until he buried a triple at the 7:38 mark. He’d hit a floater a few minutes later. An errant shot in the final minute failed to graze iron, but he was able to set a new career-high with 31 points on a pair of late free throws.
Syracuse is going to ride with Girard’s hot hand at various points this year. With 17-38 (44.7%) outside shooting to start his senior year, that’s not so bad.
After losing to Colgate last week and coming out in man-to-man, Jim Boeheim went back to familiarity in the 2-3 zone against Northeastern. He mentioned the importance of the freshmen getting one defense down first. That, of course, is the 2-3 zone. He also mentioned Richmond’s proclivity to run a Princeton offense vs. man and playing zone in this game nixed that offensive scheme.
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Boeheim went back to the well to exclusively play 2-3 zone for 45 minutes on Monday. The results were mixed, though, as Richmond exploited the zone for 13 made threes. The Spiders were lights out most of the game before cooling off in overtime. It also out-rebounded Syracuse 44-27 with 20 of those boards coming on the offensive end.
But, the Syracuse zone did produce 10 steals snd nine blocks (six from Edwards).
The zone still needs work and the freshmen will need time to adjust, but that defensive look just might be Syracuse’s best option for now.
Taking care of the rock
Syracuse did an excellent job taking care of the ball in this game. The Orange had just six turnovers as a team to Richmond’s 18. Credit to freshman point guard Mintz for playing a steady floor game with zero turnovers. No Orange player had more than two giveaways on the game.
On the other end, the Orange forced 18 turnovers out of the zone. Syracuse was able to make up for the rebounding deficit by winning the points off turnovers battle 27-8. It goes without saying, but that matters in games decided by just a few possessions.