Whether it is official or not, Orange Nation certainly embraced its legendary coach Saturday afternoon for eclipsing his 1,000 career victory mark.
In the moment, Jim Boeheim attempted to deflect the attention of his milestone victory to the recent court success of this year’s squad. Down and seemingly on life support just a few games ago, the Orange came from behind-yet again-to halt Virginia’s six-game winning streak with a 66-62 victory and promptly declared there is more basketball to be played this season.
It is hard to believe it is the same squad that lost by 30-plus points to lowly St John’s in December or to struggling Boston College on New Year’s Day.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Boeheim said after SU’s unbelievable comeback in front of the nation’s largest on campus crowd this year.
For the record, Boeheim’s initial season guiding the Orange(men) was in 1976-77, the year of our nation’s Bicentennial. Over the course of 40 years, his teams have had a lot of ups with its share of frustrating downs.
In typical Boeheim fashion Saturday, he wanted the focus to be on his team’s four-game winning streak.
“I’m just happy we got to 15,” the legend said afterwards, as the Orange’s record now stands at 15-9 and 7-4 in the rugged ACC. “I know how many wins I have but this was a great win.”
On the day when six top 10 teams lost, the Orange’s impressive victory over the no. 9 Cavaliers has, without a doubt, injected energy into the Orange’s season. It was SU’s second victory over a top 10 team in the past week.
“This team has had a lot of adversity but keeps playing and fighting,” Boeheim said, reflecting on how this team, lead by two graduate transfers, has seemingly found momentum in what had been a very frustrating season.
The Orange erased a double-digit deficit in the game’s final 20 minutes against Virginia by tightening up its defense while shooting at a remarkable 74 percent clip.
“We made adjustments in the second half and made plays,” said White, the team’s most consistent offensive threat this season.
Tyler Lydon, SU’s do-everything big man, proved that he can be just as valuable when he’s not getting his opportunity to knock down NBA-range treys. He did, however, have one such score that keyed the comeback.”
While his stat line wasn’t impressive, Lydon was in the center of the defense that stymied the Cavaliers.
“I just like playing basketball and get just as excited about playing defense,” Lydon said, then acknowledged Boeheim for guidance, on and off the court.
“He’s a mentor to everyone,” Lydon said. “He is an amazing coach.”
John Gillon, who along with White, is playing his one and only season under Boeheim, took a moment to recognize what happened Saturday afternoon.
“I am blessed to be able to play under him,” Gillon said. “I’m proud of him and am extremely blessed to play in this game. I am appreciative of it and will remember it for the rest of my life.”
Now, with the signature win in the books, SU will focus on recording its 16th victory at Clemson on Tuesday.
“It’s a grueling season,” White said. “We just have to keep working and stay focused.”
Boeheim wouldn’t look at it any other way.