SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team pummeled the LSU Tigers 80-57 during the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. Sophomore guard Judah Mintz had a lot to do with that, finishing with a career-high 33 points to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Mintz, who ranks third in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, drew comparisons to one of the NFL’s great running-backs from his head coach.
“He has a great ability to change direction at the drop of a dime. He can move his body, he can contort and do all these things and hang. He’s just a crafty guy,” Adrian Autry said. “I haven’t seen a lot of guys that can move like that. He’s just kind of like Barry Sanders with the Detroit Lions.”
Mintz, who figured he had a career night when he walked off the court but didn’t know for sure, might be agile and elusive in the way that Sanders was and he hardly shies away from contact. He drew 11 fouls in the game and shot 13-15 from the free throw line, a new high water mark in both attempts and makes from the line.
“I think it’s just difficult to keep me out the paint,” Mintz said of his ability to draw fouls. “I mean just being consistent and attacking every single time makes it difficult on the defense. I think most players don’t play like that and I think that’s why I’m able to get to the free throw line.”
“I think it’s just the way he’s able to get downhill, slice defenders apart and make plays,” Justin Taylor said.
His backcourt mate shared that sentiment.
“He’s just a smart, aggressive player,” JJ Starling added. “He knows how to get to his spots. It’s hard to stay in front of him once he chooses when he wants to go.”
When Syracuse wasn’t getting much offensive production in the first half, Mintz paced Syracuse with 17 of the team’s 33 points. His defense was important too, keeping guys in front and shutting down driving lanes.
“This is by far his best game. I thought he really kept us in it in the first half, getting to the foul line,” Autry said.
Mintz had a solid all around game. The Wooden Award candidate connected from deep on both of his attempts, one when his defender sagged off in the first half and the second when LSU went zone and left Mintz open in the corner. He’s upped his three point shooting percent to 42.9 percent on the young season, a portion of the year where he struggled to make outside shots as a freshman.
“If you’re going to leave me open this year,” Mintz said, “that’s on you.”
Mintz is almost impossible to guard one on one. Out of the half, the Syracuse guard began with two straight buckets and was fouled on both plays. When asked, he says there’s probably not another player in the country who draws and finishes through contact like him.
“Not unless they’re Zach Edey,” Mintz concedes.
“It’s nice playing with another guard that can get downhill and make plays. I’ve played with a lot of great players and he’s one of them,” Starling said.
Before the end of the half, on another and-one, Mintz brought the JMA Dome to its feet when a transition dunk shifted momentum in favor of the Orange. Mintz dunked on LSU’s Mwani Wilkinson.
Mintz said post-game he might have to tune into SportsCenter to check if the dunk made the top ten — if he wakes up in time. As for the athleticism on the play, maybe it was the local food from the hometown player that gave him a boost.
“I’m gonna give props to JJ’s mom,” Mintz began. “She cooked for us. His family cooked for us when we came back from Hawaii and I think that might’ve got me feeling good.”