Another game, another double-double.
Quincy Guerrier had single-handedly awoken Syracuse from the doldrums against Buffalo. With the Orange hitting zero 3s for the game four minutes into the second half, and the Orange trailing by what appeared to be an insurmountable 16-point lead, Guerrier rose and fired from the right wing for SU’s first 3-pointer of the game.
He followed that with three more free throws, and suddenly, the lead was whittled to 12, and, well, you know the rest. The Orange rallied to win in overtime 107-96.
Guerrier was his usual self. A career-high 27 points to go with a gritty 11 rebounds. It was his fourth double-double of the season through seven games, and a testament to how far he’s come.
“Quincy’s been great all year,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, never one to be overly effusive in his praise.
Of course, Guerrier’s journey to this point hasn’t been a straight line. To become Mr. Consistent, Guerrier needed to earn his place in SU’s rotation as a bench player in his freshman year.
Even then, those minutes were hard to come by, as he appeared in only 20.3 minutes per game. When he played, he wasn’t a threat behind the arc, shooting 3-24 from 3 all year. Contrast that to SU’s game against Rutgers earlier in December, when he shot 3-5 from beyond the arc, equaling his entire freshman year in one game.
Boeheim also was in Guerrier’s ear about being more physical in his play. After a yeoman like effort in a January win over Pittsburgh where Guerrier scored 10 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, Boeheim wasn’t impressed.
“Not enough. He’s got to to do more,” Boeheim said. “He’s got to do better.”
Guerrier took this to heart.
In a four game stretch following Boeheim’s comments, Guerrier played some his best basketball, averaging 14.0 points and 6.7 rebounds, including games against the ACC’s elite in No. 11 Louisville and No. 8 FSU.
Fast forward to the summer where question marks on Guerrier’s impact arose heading into his sophomore season. In June he had surgery to repair a torn muscle in his groin, keeping him off the court for eight weeks in the summer. Then, forward Alan Griffin transferred from Illinois, bringing competition for a starting spot at forward.
So far, there’s been no problems for Guerrier. He looks explosive around the rim, shedding any lingering doubts about his injury, and he’s played in tandem with Griffin in the starting lineup after starting center Bourama Sidibe tore his meniscus in the season opener and is out until at least early January.
Guerrier put up 15 points with 13 rebounds in an 85-84 win in the season opener against Bryant. In a blowout win against Niagara Guerrier dropped a game-high 23 points. He continued his dominance by saving Syracuse with an 18 point, 16 rebound double-double against Northeastern in what would have been an embarassing loss.
“He has been good right from the beginning,” Boeheim said after the Northeastern win. “He has been physical and a monster down-low, and doing what we need him to do to win.”
The last time coach Syracuse saw such a sophomore surge was with Kris Joseph back in 2009. Joseph’s ppg jumped more than 7 more points a game from his freshman to sophomore year, and also tallied better assist and rebounding numbers.
Part of that was due to an increase in playing time, with both players averaging more than 15 minutes more per game. But certainly, that had to do with an increase in skill and confidence.
That confidence has led Guerrier to the upper echelon of the ACC. He’s third in conference in field goal percentage (66%) and second in the league in rebounds per game (10.0). He also leads Syracuse in points per game (18.0) which is fourth in the ACC, along with the best 3-point percentage (43.8%) on the team.
His most recent 3 came from the left corner with 3 minutes to play in overtime against Buffalo to put Syracuse up 6, and Buffalo got no closer than 4 the rest of the way.
In honor of his monstrous week with the performances against Northeastern and Buffalo, Guerrier received ACC Player of the Week honors, averaging 19.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in those games.
Guerrier has had a simple formula for his exponential improvement.
“I am more confident this year,” he said. “I have been a shooter my whole life, and I just had to prove it to coach in practice. This year my game has changed and I feel more confident.”