His official playing days may be over, but his fighting spirit looks to last forever. Eric Devendorf is the only player on Boeheim’s Army roster not currently collecting paychecks for playing basketball, but the guard was the best player on the floor on Saturday, spurring a second quarter surge that propelled the Army to an 84-74 win over Gael Nation.
Devendorf tied for game-high honors with 20 points, but he rolled up 11 in that crucial second quarter when Syracuse shook off a slow start. The guard also led the Army with five assists and over 28 minutes played, shaking off an eye injury in the third quarter along the way.
For the second straight game, the Army opened the scoring, then quickly fell behind as they ended up shooting just 4-for-19 from the field in the quarter. Gael Nation ran off a 13-4 streak for a 13-7 lead, but the Army clawed back, eventually posting six straight points to draw within a single point.
In the back end of the second quarter, Devendorf and B.J. Johnson got into a groove for Boeheim’s Army. The squad hit five of their first seven shots from the field in the session and that duo ended up hitting 8-of-11 from the floor in the period, combining for 18 points.
That offensive output triggered an 11-2 run for the Army to boost them to a 43-37 advantage. Gael Nation clipped a basket off that edge, making it a four-point game at halftime.
Andrew White came out of the locker room firing, going on a personal 8-3 run out of the break to make it a 51-42 lead for the Army.
Gael Nation had pulled within 52-46 when Devendorf raced over from the side to challenge Steve Burtt Jr.’s baseline jump shot, getting a piece of the ball. Burtt’s follow-through clipped the corner of Devendorf’s eye, the contact eventually bringing Devendorf to the floor and officials to stop the game.
The Army held the fort without their leader for the remainder of the quarter, pushing the margin out to 66-57 at the end of the third, getting a block by Johnson to turn aside a potential buzzer-beating three.
Devendorf returned to the floor to start the fourth, invigorating the hometown fans. The Orange kept up the heat, eventually getting a trey from John Gillon for their greatest lead of the game at 71-60, then taking a timeout to force the Elam Ending with a 75-67 lead, making 83 points the winning number.
Hakim Warrick swished a beautiful fadeaway in the post, then White added another three. A couple minutes later, Devendorf capped the game by coming off a screen for a clean jumper from the right corner.
Andrew White helped the balanced attack with 14 points while B.J. Johnson added 13 and Darryl Watkins chipped in with a dozen.
Boeheim’s Army will play for the Syracuse regional title on Sunday, when they will face Brotherly Love, who advanced via a 90-82 win over Armored Athlete. Tip-off will be at 2:00pm Eastern and the game will be on ESPN.