The Orange hung in for a 75-67 win over a struggling Boston College Eagles team at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon. Here are the main takeaways from the win.
Girard paces Syracuse in first half, facilitates in second
Joe Girard had one of his best halves of the season Saturday, leading all scorers with 16 points to go with two steals and two rebounds. Girard, paired against Quinnipiac transfer Rich Kelly, had little issue getting to the rim and facilitating for his teammates.
Boston College adjusted in the second half, and Girard went scoreless, and added only two rebounds and an assist. But Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim praised Girard’s early dominance as a reason why the Orange hung on for the win.
“Joe just carried us,” Boeheim said. “He just put us on his shoulders and carried us in the first half.”
Meanwhile, Quincy Guerrier had a quiet first half, but he and Alan Griffin paced Syracuse after intermission. The two finished with a combined 26 points and 17 rebounds, most of it coming out of the break. That was in large part thanks to Girard’s willingness to defer.
“The first half, Quincy was off his game,” Boeheim said. “In the second half (Girard) got the ball to people, and he did a great job of moving the basketball.”
Finding reserves continues to be a struggle for Boeheim
Similar to most years, as the season goes on and Syracuse gets deeper into ACC play, Boeheim tightens his rotation to seven, and more recently, six players. There was some speculation that Bourama Sidibe would expand that number following his return against Clemson three games ago. But he hasn’t played since then.
On Saturday, Boeheim again played a short rotation. Though freshman Kadary Richmond has firmly carved out a role for himself off the bench, Boeheim otherwise only used Robert Braswell (6 minutes) in any extended action.
Braswell appears to have leapfrogged freshman Woody Newton in the rotation. Though Newton played steadily throughout non-conference play, he’s only played nine minutes since the beginning of 2021.
As for Syracuse’s backup centers, Marek Dolezaj played with three first half fouls, which led to a minute each for John Bol Ajak and Jesse Edwards. Neither contributed anything in limited time and Frank Anselem has yet to appear since SU’s ACC opener against Boston College back in December.
Syracuse has now entered crunch time
Syracuse led throughout most of the game, but could never quite pull away, and the Eagles got to within 62-57 with 5:36 left to play. A loss would’ve torpedoed any chances of the Orange making the NCAA Tournament. But with the win, Syracuse moved one win over the .500 mark in ACC play (6-5) with five games left in the regular season.
Syracuse’s NCAA resume is badly in need of a Quadrant 1 win. To date, the Orange best win is over then-No. 16 Virginia Tech, but that is still considered a Q2 win because in order to secure a Q1 win at home, it must come against a top 25 NET team. The Hokies are 33.
To date, the Orange is 0-4 in Quarant 1 games. Louisville represents a golden opportunity for the Orange, as the Cardinals are currently 34th in NET rankings. A Q1 win is awarded for any team with a NET in the top 75.
Other upcoming Q1 games for the Orange include road games at Duke (66) and Georgia Tech (63).
“We’ve been up and down,” Boeheim said. “We have to get great shots and knock down shots to be successful. These guys are doing everything they can to get (to the NCAA Tournament), but we have to play a lot better than we did today to be able to win.”