18 days. 18 days of suffering. 18 days of humiliation. It felt like the longest 18 days for Syracuse Orange fans before March 4 at 5:00 pm, but they were put out of their misery when the Syracuse men’s basketball squad FINALLY played with heart to pick up a vintage victory for the ages. The scene was set for it to happen too because they did in front of Syracuse legends and the greatest player to ever suit up for Head Coach Jim Boeheim’s roster: Carmelo Anthony. Legends Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick, who played for the 2003 championship squad, had their jerseys retired the same night. Long story short, this was a must-win game for the Orange and they delivered.
Jesse Edwards decided to wake up that day and not eat one meal because he was clearly starving and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons surprisingly had an all you can eat buffet ready for the big man. Edwards posted a big boy double-double with 20 points and 20 rebounds on 73% shooting from the field. His family was in the stands to witness the Demon Deacons get devoured as well. Judah Mintz and Joe Girard combined for 33 points to help propel the offense as the Orange cruised to take the game 72-63.
Although the offense was there, this could have not been possible without a full team effort defensively. Syracuse forced 16 turnovers, compiled 13 steals and added four blocks. There was finally a sense of urgency on that end of the floor for the first time in 18 days where this team played a total of four games. At one point, you just had to wonder when pride would kick in for the Orange to put together a masterpiece defensively. If they don’t at least match this effort or top it when they take on Wake Forest later tonight, this team’s ACC tournament’s hopes are over before the game even starts.
On the broadcast of the game, Warrick pointed out that the 2-3 defense Boeheim has relied on for the past 1000 years usually leaves space on the perimeter for shooters to get open. However, he admitted that Boeheim has mastered how to run the defense in a way where this wouldn’t happen often and of course he has made this his trademark in college basketball. The night before games, teams are haunted with the fact that they have to prepare for the stress Boeheim’s defensive schemes will unleash on them once it’s time for tip-off the next day. Remarkably, this season and even last season things have been different. Whether it’s the game revolutionizing with more threes getting chucked up, thanks to players like Stephen Curry, or the personnel on this year’s squad, this is not the time for excuses. It’s time to make it work with the ACC tournament only mere hours away.