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Boeheim’s Army squeaks by The Nerd Team, notches 83-75 revenge win in TBT 2nd round

It was a tight battle down the stretch, but Boeheim’s Army gets the job done.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Auburn vs Charleston Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s rewind back to last summer Syracuse Orange fans. Coming off a memorable 2021 championship run, Boeheim’s Army’s title defense fell flat early after an 81-74 upset loss to The Nerd Team. The defeat left a sour taste then, but fast forward to now, and Boeheim’s Army can say it earned its vengeance on Wednesday night.

It wasn’t a dominant victory compared to the 99-83 win on Monday versus Team Gibson, but Boeheim’s Army did just enough during the Elam ending to secure an 83-75 revenge win over the Nerds. Starter Grant Riller improved off his 20-point performance last game to lead all scorers with 27 points on 11/17 shooting to lead Boeheim’s Army’s offense attack.

Off the bench, the trio of Chris McCullough, Justin Robinson and Jimmy Boeheim combined for 27 points to give Boeheim’s Army a much-needed spark down the stretch, especially with Dwight Buycks out for most of the game after an early injury. Although the Nerds excelled from the three-point line like they usually do (12/29, 41%), Boeheim’s Army capitalized on forced turnovers and a 25-15 second quarter advantage to hold off the Nerds just enough to eek out the win.

And now, the eyes for Boeheim’s Army will continue to be on the $1 million prize, but first, it will need to get past the Syracuse Regional title game versus Blue Collar U from Buffalo. That’s right: we’ve got an Upstate clash between the last two winners of the TBT. Mark your calendars, folks.

Both teams caught fire early, with The Nerd Team hitting most of their threes at the start - something it successfully did 17 times in the 81-74 win last year versus Boeheim’s Army in the Round of 32. But, the starting duo of B.J. Johnson and Riller combined for Boeheim’s Army’s first 16 points to keep things close in the first quarter.

In particular, Johnson (10 first quarter points) came out with a desire to send a message right from tip-off as Boeheim’s Army jumped out to a 21-17 lead at the end of the first.

The Nerd Team slowed the pace down in the second quarter, focusing mainly on attacking the rim and upping its pressure defensively as the offense for Boeheim’s Army cooled. The second quarter soon turned into a scoring match between Riller and The Nerd Team’s three main scorers in Prentiss Hubb (19 points), Desi Washington (14 points, 6 assists) and Kyle Casey (13 points).

After trailing 26-24, Boeheim’s Army called time out and regrouped immediately, going from down two to up 46-32 thanks to a 17-1 run at the end of the second half. McCullough nailed two threes while Riller continued his hot performance with a 17-point effort on 8/11 shooting in the first half. Boeheim’s Army forced The Nerd Team into several empty possessions which fueled its offense entering halftime.

Boeheim’s Army was also letting it fly from behind the line, notching in a scorching 6/13 clip from three after two quarters:

The Nerds wouldn’t go away, leaning into its go-to hub of outside shooting to cut the lead from Boeheim’s Army to as low as six points. Boeheim’s Army successfully defended the rim and forced turnovers, but couldn’t stop The Nerd Team from shooting 9/22 from behind the line after three quarters.

Boeheim’s Army entered the fourth quarter up 62-54. After struggling versus Team Gibson to close things out the last time around, Boeheim’s Army only kept a five-point lead (75-70) heading into the Elam Ending. But Rakeem Christmas and the rest of the bench stepped up down the end, with Riller capping things off with a drive to the rim and the game-winning free throw to seal the deal.

With Wednesday’s win in the books, Boeheim’s Army will now take on Blue Collar U on Friday night. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN+, with the winner of this New York battle advancing to the 2023 TBT Elite Eight to take on the victor of the West Virginia regional.