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Syracuse Orange knocked out of ACC Tournament by Wake Forest on last second-shot

It was the dagger that ripped the Orange’s heart.

Wake Forest v Syracuse Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

What a way to end the Syracuse Orange season. Deep breath everyone, because this one stung and then some.

Despite a quiet night from Joe Girard (9 points on 2/8 shooting) and a tough offensive game from Judah Mintz (18 points on 7/21 shooting), the eight-seeded Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (17-15, 10-11) held the final possession with the game tied in the last seconds. But a tough miss by Girard coupled with a game-winning three by the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (19-13, 11-10) sees the Orange fall 77-74 in nothing short of heartbreaking fashion in the second round of the 2023 ACC Tournament.

Both teams struggled out of the gate and combined to shoot 4/12 from the field, with Syracuse held scoreless for nearly the first three minutes since tip-off before back-to-back scores by Judah Mintz and Chris Bell handed the Orange an early 5-4 lead. The duo of Benny Williams and Jesse Edwards looked great defensively early on, but Wake Forest’s paint defense on its end made it difficult for ‘Cuse to get easy looks inside.

Despite a few occasional lapses, Syracuse got most of its production early off of hustle plays from Williams and Chris Bell, forcing Wake Forest into an early timeout after the Orange pushed ahead to a 13-8 lead. With the Demon Deacons hard-doubling Edwards and trapping Joe Girard at the top of the key, Williams scored eight-straight points and the Williams-Bell duo combined for 16 of Syracuse’s first 19 points to give the Orange a nine-point lead around the midway point of the first half. On defense, Syracuse held the Demon Deacons to 4/13 shooting from the field and three turnovers to begin the game.

After trailing 4-0, Syracuse outscored Wake Forest 22-6 in a huge first-half run, something we aren’t accustomed to seeing this season from the Orange as the team surged to a 12-point lead over the Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest wouldn’t go away easy, especially with Edwards picking up his second foul with eight minutes left in the first half and the Demon Deacons finally nailing their shots from the outside. A quick 11-0 run by Wake Forest saw the Orange’s 12-point lead get cut down to one (22-21). Interestingly, coach Boeheim went with a smaller lineup featuring all three of Bell, Williams, and Maliq Brown next to the Girard-Mintz backcourt.

Despite a strong recovery by the Demon Deacons, the Orange maintained a 35-33 lead heading into halftime, even with Syracuse shooting 12/31 (39%) from the field in the game’s first 20 minutes. A strong 5/10 first-half performance from three helped the Orange stay ahead, even with Edwards (2 points on 1/3 shooting) and Girard (6 points on 1/4 shooting) struggling in the first half. Williams led the Orange with 10 points, while Bell (8 points) and Mintz (7 points) keeping ‘Cuse out in front.

Both teams battle back and forth coming out of the halftime break, especially with Wake Forest’s offense finding its groove. The Demon Deacons went on a 17-1 run as Syracuse’s offense came to a standstill, making just one of its last 14 field goals at one point. Edwards did have this impressive jam plus the foul to keep things interesting at least for ‘Cuse:

Regression to the mean for Wake Forest’s three-point shot doomed the Orange. The Demon Deacons caught fire from three after struggling in the first half, which put Syracuse into a bigger deficit. Near the halfway point of the second half, the Orange dropped to shooting just 30% from the field, while Wake Forest shot up to 45%, including 6/16 from downtown.

Despite the double-digit deficit, the Orange wouldn’t go away just yet. A 9-0 run coupled with a nearly three-minute scoring drought saw Syracuse trail 58-57 with under eight minutes left to go as the Demon Deacons missed nine of their last 10 shots in a game of hot versus cold for both programs. A nice and-one layup and free throw by Williams tied the game up at 60 apiece with 7:30 left to go.

From there, both teams traded baskets all the way to the end, with the Orange keeping pace heading into the final three minutes. But a costly pass by Williams led to an easy scoop and score for Wake Forest, with the Orange trailing 72-69 with 2:38 left to go.

A tough shot by Mintz coupled with a huge three by Williams saw a five-point swing go in Syracuse’s favor, leading 74-72 with under a minute to go. Wake Forest responded with a crazy finish inside, meaning the Orange had the final shot with 28 seconds left to go and tied 74-74 with the Demon Deacons.

And then, disaster struck. Wake Forest hit a fall-away three with 0.2 left to go. Ball game.

Just like that, Syracuse’s 2022-2023 campaign comes to a close and in stunning fashion.

And now, here comes an offseason loaded with uncertainty and big-time decisions.


TNIAAM community: talk about a sour way to lose on Wednesday. The loss leaves a lot of mixed feelings about the Orange after falling short to Wake Forest. What went right and wrong, and what comes next for Syracuse moving forward beyond this season? Leave your thoughts down below.