Sophomore forward Benny Williams helped fuel the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team to a win over Boston College on Saturday. Williams stepped up with the second double-double of his career by scoring 16 points and hauling in 11 rebounds.
Williams scored from all three levels against Boston College, including 2-2 from outside. He finished just one point shy of his career high and added a pair of steals and three blocks to his performance.
Although he didn’t get off to a good start, Williams came alive in the final three minutes of the first half. He found a bit of rhythm, which started with an offensive rebound and putback. He followed that up with a jumper from the top of the key and a made three thereafter gave Syracuse a nine point cushion at the half.
Jim Boeheim has practically pleaded with his starting forwards to rebound this season, but he thinks this is the kind of performance that Williams is capable of.
“Benny’s been shooting well in practice. He made a couple shots. But then he got on the boards and that’s something that he can do whether he makes shots or not, rebound, play defense. He hasn’t been doing that,” Boeheim said post-game.
After losing to Pittsburgh and coming back from break, Williams said he put in extra work with forward coach Adrian Autry before each practice.
“Just trying to turn things around,” Williams said of the extra work and his double-double. “Knowing that I can do these things and just gotta do them in the game, not just practice.”
The performance against a limited Boston College team was important as Syracuse center Jesse Edwards found himself in familiar foul trouble territory. While Mounir Hima blocked four shots from the center position, Syracuse played without its best rebounder for a long stretch in the second half. That’s troublesome for the Orange on both ends, but especially within the zone as Edwards has a defensive rebounding percentage of 26.5%, a team best by a wide margin.
Williams stepped up on defense and on the glass in that stretch. He also got some easy offense with five offensive rebounds.
“A really key focus of us all year long is forwards blocking and rebounding shots when Jesse’s not in the game—and when he’s in the game—obviously Jesse’s a great player for us on both ends of the floor. We just had to take up some of those rebounds and get some of those points that he would’ve had if he was in the game,” Williams said.
In the second half, Williams got aggressive looking for his offense. His second three of the game midway through the second half gave Syracuse the lead back at 49-48. Later, he faced up from the low post, jabbed right but dribbled left to create space and took a jumper that gave Syracuse a three point lead. After, a follow tip off a missed layup gave his team a ten point lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Boeheim, who has played six different forwards at various points this year, said he finds it disturbing when people make judgements about who should play when they don’t see practice.
“Practice is important. Benny’s the best player in practice, every day at the forward position. Has he been the best player in the game? He hadn’t been great. He is our best forward. I’m going to stick with him and people don’t see any of that,” Boeheim asserted.
As Syracuse still searches for answers at its small forward position, Williams looks to be the guy at the four.
“Benny is very capable of being a double-double guy. He’s our best forward,” Boeheim declared. “He’s going to get every opportunity to do what he can do.”