In a back and forth game, Boeheim’s Army picked up the defensive pressure and made clutch shots down the stretch to reach the Elam ending, defeating Heartfire 68-62 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Here is what we learned as Boeheim’s Army advances to third round play.
Keifer Sykes leads the way for Boeheim’s Army
Keifer Sykes shot 5-9 from the field and finished with 17 points with 9 coming from behind the arc off the bench.
It was a rebound game for Skyes, who played just eight minutes and had two turnovers and a -7 rating in a win over Forces of Seoul.
Despite the namesake, Boeheim’s Army was mostly led by the four non-Syracuse players on the team. Besides Sykes (19 minutes), Deandre Kane (27), Tyrese Rice (16), DJ Kennedy (23) played heavy minutes. The only two Syracuse players with more minutes than Skyes were Chris McCullough (20) and Malachi Richardson (24).
In all, the four non-SU players combined for 41 of the team’s 68 points.
Chris McCullough ends Heartfire’s season
McCullough hit the Elam ending shot on Monday, taking a feed from Rice, pump faking, and calming stepping into a mid-range jumper. Even before the shot went in, McCullough shouted “that’s game!” adding an emphasis to his eight and ninth points of the night.
“I’m really not a big fan of the ending,” McCullough said, “to be honest with you guys.”
“I’m actually a big fan,” he said. “At the end of it, it makes us play the game of basketball.”
Boeheim’s Army performs at their peak in their evening games
Head coach Jeremy Pope had an interesting assessment of his squad depending on when they are playing.
Boeheim’s Army played at 12 p.m. in the first round against Forces of Seoul on Saturday and looked sluggish, needing a late rally to push past the pesky 14 seed. On Monday, the Army transitioned to a 7 p.m. tip-off for their second round game.
The difference was noticeable, as Boeheim’s Army jumped out to 38-26 halftime lead.
“Today we were more awake and you could feel the energy,” Pope said. “We didn’t have the 11 a.m. AAU time slot for the game. We got two meals in before the game and even Deandre [Kane] had his pregame meal right before.”
Kane, sitting to Pope’s right, burst out in laughter.
“Not lying, that [expletive] really helped,” Kane said.
There was no disagreements from Pope.
“You could simply feel it tonight,” he said.