New York State In-depth

Williams impressed, too many turnovers

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Syracuse returned from a 10-day hiatus reeling from a last-second loss to Pittsburgh. Head coach Jim Boeheim said the players would work rigorously upon their return to improve on a patchy start to the season. While it was sloppy in the second half and took multiple runs to defeat Boston College, Syracuse took care of the Eagles and picked up their second conference win.

Benny Williams had 16 points and 11 rebounds – an explosive presence throughout the game that the Oranges lacked. Joe Girard III took over and led all scorers with 24 points, including four 3-pointers. Despite turning the ball 14 times, SU (9-5, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) finished off Boston College’s offense (7-7, 1-2 ACC) just enough to win.

Here are some observations on Syracuse’s 79-65 win over the Eagles.

Joe Girard catalyzes the win

Girard loves playing against Boston College. In the last four games he’s shooting 60% overall against the Eagles. He had another run against Boston College on Saturday and was the catalyst to put Syracuse ahead from their early hole and midway through the first half. He pulled up from all over the court to extend Syracuse’s lead to 29-24 in the first half. The shooting guard ended the first half on 13 points and after an excellent second half, finished the afternoon on 24 points and added four assists.

He looked balanced and rarely took any shots without his feet under him. On a three, he intervened and faked a drive while Edwards was just inside the three-point line. Then Girard cut off again and Jesse Edwards slid to the right to shield Girard’s man. With ample space off the top of the button, Judah Mintz tabled the ball over to Girard and the shooting guard swept through another 3 in the first half.

A little over five minutes into the game, Girard cut in and dragged his defender with him before quickly cutting back to the 3-point line. He snagged a pass off the top of the button, rotated his foot and dumped a 3, an accelerated sequence that gave Syracuse back their 10-point lead that Boston College erased earlier in the half.

10 days off? These will be sales

Maybe it was a by-product of 10 days without games. Perhaps it was the result of a more aggressive Boston College team trying to disrupt passes to the lanes and inside the foul line. But from the start, Syracuse struggled to hold the ball, coughing up 14 turnovers in total. The game’s first possession ended prematurely when Mintz threw a looping pass for Williams, which was canceled before touching Williams’ hands. Edwards then snagged a Mintz-colored pass on the next possession, tried to dribble towards the basket but was stolen from Boston College – another turnover to end a SU possession.

Syracuse eventually capitalized on its size, finding significant offensive contributions from four of its five starters. But his mistakes, the 14 turnovers, kept Boston College hanging around for most of the game and putting pressure on SU at various points in the second half. With 14 minutes remaining in the second half, Girard tried to dish out a pass to Mounir Hima before the basket. As he drove, Girard threw a errand pass, which Boston College easily grabbed. Syracuse lazily jogged back on defense and the Eagles used a transition layup.

Two games later, Williams snagged a rebound from a missed 3 from Girard, but turned it over when his pass for Quadir Copeland went straight to a Boston College player. Makai Ashton-Langford drove down the court shortly after and ended the sequence with a layup through the back door, reducing the Eagles’ lead to four points.

Benny Williams does what he is told

Boeheim was critical of Williams’ play, angered by the forward’s lack of effort in the first 13 games of the season. There were even inquiries as to whether Williams would remain in the starting XI long-term or whether Jon Bol Ajak would be better suited in one of the front positions for the majority of the minutes. With the negative spotlight shining brighter than ever on Williams, the sophomore took on Boston College and played at a feverish level.

After a weak double pump on a baseline layup he missed, Williams came back and jumped for an Edwards turnaround shot, snagging the rebound and smoothly putting in the second chance attempt. Two possessions later, he pulled up from the extended foul line and knocked in a jumper. To end his fiery sequence, which was followed up with a late first-half run for Syracuse, Williams collected a pass from Mintz at the top of the key. He’s only 5-to-15 from deep this season but has been wide open and pulled ahead to extend The Orange’s lead to 36-27 before half-time.

At the change, just before the U16 timeout in the second half, Williams raced along the left side of the pitch in turns. Syracuse only had one other player besides Williams, but Girard was behind Ashton-Langford, who had the ball alone. Williams then jumped to the rim and batted away Ashton-Langford’s expected wide-open fast break layup.

Slow start erased by late run in first half

The slow starts are no longer an aberration – they wrap themselves in the identity of the 2022-23 Syracuse Orange. At first it was an isolated incident that happened against Colgate, with Boeheim allaying concerns by stating that the Raiders were probably the best passing team the Orange would face. They then avoided a serious test by picking up five straight wins and moving up to 8-4 before the start of conference play. But it hurt Syracuse against Pittsburgh and once again was the difference against the Eagles.

In the first half, Boston College needed a nearly four-minute goal gap to put Syracuse back ahead, which stretched to seven points. But then an Ashton-Langford 3 ended a 7-0 run for the Eagles that leveled the game and forced Boeheim to call a time-out. From there, the Orange broke out on a 12-3 run that they would use to break a solid lead at halftime that they wouldn’t give up. The Orange continued to break down fast lanes, forcing Boston College, one of the worst shooting teams in the ACC, to stop from deep and middle range. At the end of the first half, the Eagles were only shooting 40% from the field and finishing with only 2 of 7 shots from deep.

Edwards is leaving, Boston College is coming back

Ron Sisler once said the quote that has since been repeated by almost every basketball coach in the country: “Basketball is a game of runs.” External factors lead to the runs that determine the course of a given basketball game, but ultimately the 40 minutes of college Basketball can be described simply by the runs each team completes. To wrap up the first half, it was Syracuse who choked off Boston College’s offense, frequently stopping passes in the zone’s lanes. But a four-minute overtime in the second half, a 12-0 run by the Eagles, wiped out SU’s 10-point lead.

Sloppy play, including three turnovers, allowed the Eagles to regain their footing. Finally, a 3-pointer from Devin McGlockton silenced the crowd in the JMA Wireless Dome. The Eagles led by a point for the first time in almost 10 minutes. It lasted only a few seconds as Williams immediately came back and nailed a 3 himself. But BC was about to take advantage of a Syracuse lineup that Edwards was missing. Hima did what he could under the basket but picked up his fourth foul at 7:19 in the half.

The lack of Edwards – the outside factor that led to Boston College’s run – continued throughout the second half. The center was in early foul trouble and Boeheim wanted to save him for the final five minutes of the game.

Contact Anthony: [email protected] | @anthonyalandt

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