Item: It’s on to a sweet, Sweet 16 for Syracuse Saturday night facing Midwest Region No. 2 seed Houston (9:55 p.m. ET / TBS) back at Hinkle Fieldhouse. While contributions from a steady eight man rotation have spurred the Orange this postseason, the spotlighted story remains on the Boeheim family influence of head coach Jim and shooting guard Buddy.
One of the most interesting statistical gems unearthed by the Elias Sports Bureau (courtesy ESPN) concerning the postseason scoring blitz by Buddy Boeheim, is the 55 points he has tallied in the first two NCAA victories over San Diego State (30) and West Virginia (25), is the third highest scoring output among any SU player in the first two games of a particular season’s NCAA tournament appearance.
Here’s a look at the two ‘Cuse players ahead of Buddy Boeheim on that list, and more on the incredible accomplishments of the junior shooting guard who has raised his scoring average precipitously over the last three seasons:
1957-Gary Clark (60)
The NCAA Tournament debuted in 1939, but for a program of Syracuse’s status, it’s amazing to think that SU did not participate in its first tournament until 1957. After finishing 16-6 in the regular season, the sixth year that Mark Guley was the head coach, the Orangemen defeated Connecticut 82-76 at Madison Square Garden, a game in which the burley but also quick Clark, a senior starting forward, scored a game-high 26 points.
The victory sent Syracuse to the round now known as the Sweet 16, but back then was simply referred to as the regional semifinal. Facing Lafayette in what turned out to be a back-and-forth game at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Clark saved SU’s season by scoring a career-high 34 points to help hold off the Leopards 75-71. Clark was 13-for-20 from the field, hit 8-of-10 free throws, and added 13 rebounds in a player-of-the game performance.
Unfortunately, Clark’s career game to an end a day later against the region’s top seed North Carolina. Syracuse fell one victory short from its first Final Four dropping a 68-57 decision to the Tar Heels, and Clark fouled out after shooting only 5-of-13 and finishing with 11 points.
2004-Gerry McNamara (56)
McNamara’s legendary career was cemented in his freshman season with his 2003 national championship game performance. G-Mac coolly nailed six first-half 3-point baskets to demoralize Kansas in the eventual nail-biting finish, and subsequent cutting down of the nets at the Louisiana Superdome.
All McNamara did as an encore in his next NCAA appearance in 2004 was practically single-handedly oust higher-seed Brigham Young from the tournament in an 80-75 Orange win. McNamara was magnificent with his 43 point afternoon in a game played at the Pepsi Center in Denver, finishing 9-of-13 from beyond the arc, then the third highest total in tournament history, causing Jim Boeheim to gush afterwards that his sophomore guard “had as good a performance as I’ve ever seen in college basketball.”
In the Round of 32 game versus Maryland two days later, a matchup featuring the previous two NCAA champions, G-Mac did not display his usual marksmanship, failing to hit a 3 pointer until early in the second half, finishing with 13 points on just 2-of-11 shooting, and demurring to Hakim Warrick’s 26 point output to lead SU to a 72-70 win and a spot in the Sweet 16.
2021-Buddy Boeheim (55)
After hitting the first field goal from long distance in the game’s first minute Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Buddy Boeheim had a quiet first half in the thrilling 75-72 win over West Virginia, finishing just 1-of-6 shooting for those three points.
In the glow of advancing to the 20th regional semifinal game in his 45 years running the program, and after Buddy more than made up for his opening half scoring drought pouring in 25 points including three important late free throws to provide just enough of a cushion to thwart the Mountaineers comeback, Jim Boeheim was as effusive with praise for his son as he had been for his current assistant coach McNamara 17 years ago.
“He missed some of those in the first half, which is unusual the way he’s been playing lately,” Jim Boeheim said afterwards. “He missed some wide-open ones, but eventually he’s going to make those. At halftime, Gerry talked to him and said, ‘just keep going, keep looking for them.’ Everybody kept looking for him, and he knocked some huge shots down when they had us in a lot of trouble.”
“(But) Buddy, I give him all the credit in the world,” added the SU coach. “I’ve had a lot of hard-working players, I really have. I mean, a lot of guys that just worked their tail off. I mean, he works harder than anybody that I’ve ever coached, and it’s not close. It really is not close.”