Senior center Jesse Edwards tied his career-high in a 22-point, 14-rebound effort leading the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team to a 62-61 road victory at Notre Dame. Edwards previously reached a career high when he scored 22 points at Miami last season. His double-double was the third this season and fifth of his career.
Edwards was able to get established in the paint early on against Notre Dame. Getting him the ball was part of Jim Boeheim’s offensive game plan. Syracuse was determined to find him and he scored eight of the Orange’s first ten points off rolls, lob action and even a raucous putback dunk.
“Their defense was a good defense for me to play against. We knew that coming in so we did try to run some sets for me and they got me the ball really well, tried to fight in there and got good opportunities,” Edwards said post-game.
Edwards had Nate Laszewski matched up with him, who had a difficult time containing the big man from the Netherlands. Joe Girard has been particularly prudent in searching for his classmate and did a good job of finding him in the first half, once on a lob and another on a post feed and another off a pick and roll. It was a matchup Syracuse felt it could exploit.
“We feel like Jesse is the best big in the country,” Judah Mintz said. “So whenever he has a mismatch we’re going to feed him. Today was just a great example of that. He opens up everything for us. He gets us driving lanes, he gets us easy shots. Whenever you have a big like Jesse it makes everything easy.’
Notre Dame switched its defensive strategy in the second half, sending immediate double teams when Edwards received a post-touch. Edwards recognized the shift and looked for teammates.
“We got it inside. I got good looks. In the second half I noticed they were immediately doubling those mostly. So I could just kick it out, get good looks outside,” Edwards continued. “It was opening up the way we hoped it would.”
Syracuse struggled to make outside shots against Notre Dame. If teams double Edwards, the perimeter players will have to do a better job knocking down open shots. But Edwards was still able to score and offensive rebound.
“Obviously Jesse’s playing at a high level right now. We’ve got to get better at getting him the ball in some situations,” Jim Boeheim said.
“God is he gifted. We doubled. We didn’t want to give up too many threes,” Mike Brey spoke of Edwards. “Edwards was a beast but we doubled a little bit. We weren’t getting scorched from out there so you felt you had a chance.”
Syracuse came down to the wire with Notre Dame. With Edwards commanding attention, a late handoff from him to Mintz resulted in a baseline bucket from the freshman point guard that gave Syracuse the final lead of the game. Brey said he’d spend Saturday night wondering if they should’ve trapped Mintz, but still suggested he’d then have worried about Edwards on the roll.
Edwards, who leads the ACC in rebounding and ranks third nationally, recorded zero fouls and played all 40 minutes on Saturday.
“Jesse’s been really good. He’s rebounding the defensive board. He’s really getting better all the time,” Boeheim said.