The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team earned an important conference road win at Notre Dame over the weekend. Syracuse edged the Irish 62-61 in large part due to Joe Girard breaking out of a shooting slump.
Girard ended a three game slide where he scored just nine points combined on 2-25 shooting, including 1-13 from the three point line. Against Notre Dame, though, Girard shot 9-18 from the floor and scored 20 points. Syracuse is 4-0 this season when Girard scores 19 points or more.
“We needed Joe to bounce back and that was the difference in the game I think. He was aggressive, we ran some stuff for him but he was aggressive and made some plays,” Jim Boeheim said.
Although he slogged through a tough three game stretch, his teammates still had faith in him. Girard is taking additional defensive attention this year and teams are throwing their best defender on the senior guard.
“The whole team we look for him as a leader. We look to him as a scorer. Whenever he has an off game we still have confidence in him. He came back today and hit some big shots,” Judah Mintz said.
Girard dropped in his first three of the game when his defender fell down and he stepped into his shooting motion with alacrity. He buried it. He was able to get loose on a backdoor cut with the Notre Dame defense overplaying him, something he’s had to utilize more this year. Just prior to the half, he made a contested and important triple to tie the game at 35, giving him 10 points at the intermission.
Said Boeheim, “[Cormack] Ryan is a really good defensive player. I thought we helped Joe (with) better screening. Illinois just overpowered him. He took advantage when Ryan was out. He got a couple buckets in those situations too.”
In the second half, John Bol Ajak found Girard on another backdoor cut. He had a pair of steals that led to transition buckets in each half. Girard also had a tough spin into a jumper from the elbow that dropped as the shot clock expired that seemed to illuminate the bounce back performance.
On the season, Girard has cooled from range but is shooting it just below average from three at 32.8%. He’s shooting better inside the arc at 40.8% (think transition layups and backdoor cuts). The inverse was true a season ago when Girard knocked down 40.3% of his threes but shot 37.6% from inside the arc.
There’s no questioning the importance of Girard’s scoring to Syracuse’s success. For a team that struggled to put up points during his slump, the Orange will need him to be a consistent double-figure scorer. Syracuse is 0-4 when Girard makes four shots or less.
“We need him to be effective,” Boeheim said.