NEW YORK — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim uttered three words rarely heard at his press conferences following SU’s 62-59 win over Pittsburgh in the Big East Tournament’s quarterfinals on Thursday.
“I’m just happy,” Boeheim said.
That’s because Boeheim had set one goal, and one goal only for his team in the Big East tournament: To start playing better.
So far, mission accomplished.
“We played really well here in two games,” Boeheim said. “And that’s important.”
Syracuse had limped into the Big East tournament, losers of four of five games. Against arch rival Georgetown on Saturday, the Orange had their lowest offensive output of the 37-year Boeheim era in a 61-39 loss.
But in the second and quarterfinal rounds, the Orange offense has started humming again.
Against, the Panthers, Syracuse shot 46 percent from the field and 12 for 19 from downtown. In Wednesday’s win over Seton Hall, the Orange shooting was a balmy 56 percent and SU was 9 for 15 from beyond the arc.
An even more encouraging sign is the shooting from the Orange’s two seniors, Brandon Triche and James Southerland, who had combined for 1 for 17 shooting against the Hoyas.
Triche, who had gone three weeks without hitting a single 3, has four of them in his last two games, and is 11 for 20 from the field so far in the tournament. Meanwhile, Southerland has gone 12 for 15 from downtown and has scored 40 points.
“After going six or seven games straight with a lack of energy, we know we have to be urgent,” Triche said. “This can very much jump start us to the [NCAA] tournament. So we know how important the Big East tournament is.”
Now, the hard part will be keeping it up, especially against a Hoyas team that has solved the Orange in both of their matchups this season.
“It’s still important going into tomorrow night to, again, to play well,” Boeheim said. “If you don’t play well, they’re going to beat you. It should be a great game.”