Syracuse outlasts Richmond in Brooklyn overtime thriller

SU outlasts Richmond in Brooklyn OT thriller

Joe Girard eluded the Spiders' stingy defense to score a career-high 31 points.
Published: November 22, 2022
Empire Classic
SU's Judah Mintz looks to pass the ball against Richmond's Jason Nelson (1) on Monday at the Barclays Center.

BROOKLYN —  Usually decked in black, white and gray for the local Brooklyn Nets, the Barclays Center was all Orange on Monday night for the Syracuse-Richmond opening game of the 2022 Empire Classic.

Fans stood up and clapped until the Orange’s first points like every game, oohed and aahed at the night’s most dazzling plays and left Brooklyn’s largest arena with smiles on their faces after Syracuse came out on top in an overtime thriller, 74-71, improving to a 3-1 on the young season. 

SU head coach Jim Boeheim characterized this game as one the Orange didn’t necessarily “deserve” to win, but was happy with the outcome nonetheless.

“It’s a great game to get a win in, but it’s just too many bad things out there we’re going to have to work on to correct,” Boeheim said. 

Senior Jesse Edwards echoed those sentiments, saying, “I feel like it should’ve been a lot easier game than this, but I’m just glad we got the win.”  

Richmond surprised Syracuse by implementing full-court pressure from the opening tip, but that didn’t stop the Orange from putting its imprint on the game immediately and jumped out to an early 10-2 lead. Soon after, Judah Mintz may have had the highlight of the season when he had a Richmond defender lost after a smooth crossover and then glided to the rim for a Gervin-esque finger-roll finish. 

Mintz would jump the passing lane on the ensuing Spider possession and hit a streaking Joe Girard on the fastbreak. Richmond would be forced to call timeout after a spinning layup from Girard had the Orange ahead 14-2. 

The Spiders would respond with a barrage of three-pointers, finding the weak spot in Syracuse’s “all or nothing” zone defense. Girard kept his team afloat, scoring 21 first-half points. The Orange led 34-29 after the first half of play.

Boeheim wasn’t too surprised by the first-half output from the fiery guard. “Well, you know, he can shoot,” he remarked. “I’ll tell you; his teammates did a great job. They set a lot of screens and got him a lot of looks. And he can shoot it; we know that. I’m not surprised he can score if he gets his shots.” 

The coach anticipates that Girard will begin to see more aggressive defenses like face-guarding, “that’ll create some driving lanes, and we need to get Jesse and Benny involved in those situations when Joe gets pressured like that.” 

Girard isn’t too worried about the attention he is set to face, though, citing past teammates of his who have seen similar looks. “I’ve played three years with guys like Buddy Boeheim, Elijah Hughes, who I’ve kind of seen and watched get the same kind of attention that I’m getting this year,” he noted. “But at the same time, I’ve got guys around me on my team that can make plays, can score, can shoot. I’ve got a lot of teammates around me who can free me up, and it gives me a good look on the offensive end.” 

The halftime lead would be short-lived; back-to-back Richmond triples from guard Jason Nelson put the Spiders ahead. 

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was unhappy with the team’s three-point defense. ‘Our forwards are still not looking and seeing where the shooters are. They’re standing there, so we have to defend that. When we defended that line, they didn’t have anything. 

“We were there and didn’t contest the shot,” he continued. “It’s one thing behind there, and it’s another thing contesting the shot. And we didn’t contest the shot. Period. End of story.” 

A game once played to the Orange’s tempo was flipped on its head, and the two teams played a contested back-and-forth affair, with neither squad claiming a two-possession lead. 

Empire Classic
SU's Jesse Edwards (14) loses the ball against to Richmond's Jason Nelson (1) and Neal Quinn (32).

‘Cuse starting center Jesse Edwards, who entered action averaging 15.7 points per game, didn’t score until midway through the second half. The seven-footer didn’t come alive until late but finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, and six blocks in 31 minutes. “In some of [our offensive plays], Jesse’s got to be found,” Boeheim said. “We have to find Jesse. Jesse has to move better, but we have to find Jesse down there. He was a presence on defense in the second half, I think five or six blocks, that was a big difference in the game.” 

The game stayed close throughout the second half, with Richmond maintaining a lead. The Orange would try to regain momentum, but any impressive shotmaking from Joe Girard was often quickly quieted by a three-pointer from the Spiders. Girard acted as a vocal leader throughout this stretch, raising his arms after making field goals to energize the Barclays crowd. 

“You kind of black out [when the crowd roars back],” Girard said postgame. “We know to New York City [that] we usually have a huge fanbase, it’s kind of like our second home, and we know that Orange Nation. Whenever they’re behind us, it gives us that extra boost.”

“That’s the Joe I know,” Edwards said. “I’ve been with him for four years, so it’s nothing new for me. Going off in the first half like that and staying consistent. That’s what we needed tonight.” 

Empire Classic
Joseph Girard III of the Syracuse Orange reacts to a three-point basket against Richmond.

In the final minutes, every fan stood up from their seats. Edwards finally came alive with a ferocious putback dunk to give Syracuse a one-point lead. With 50 seconds remaining, Richmond forward Tyler Burton stepped up to the free throw line and split a pair to tie the ball game at 63 points apiece. A replay review overturned the call on the floor and determined that ‘Cuse would be awarded the ball with just under a minute left. Girard called his number but missed a potential game-winning fadeaway, and Edwards got tied up with an offensive rebound. The possession arrow awarded the ball to the Spiders. 

Richmond called a timeout of their own but could not even attempt a shot before Mintz grabbed his second steal of regulation and dashed down the floor as the final precious seconds ticked off the clock. The dynamic rookie guard dished the ball to a diving Edwards, but time ran out before the center could flush the ball in for the win. And thus, the Orange were set for their first overtime game of the season. 

Mintz got the scoring start early in the extra period with a pull-up jump shot, but the Spiders answered soon after that, which led to more back-and-forth ball. It was when 50 seconds were remaining. Syracuse captured their first double-digit possession after losing their halftime lead after Mintz snaked through the lane and went up and under to put his team up 72-68. 

The Spiders looked to cut into the four-point deficit with 36 seconds left, but after six straight missed field goals following an array of offensive rebounds, they were simply out of time. Syracuse walked off the floor victorious. The game-clinching free throws from Joe Girard gave him a career-high for points with 31 total, but he stayed humble about the accomplishment.

Empire Classic
Richmond's Dji Bailey drops the ball against the Orange defense.

“I mean, it’s pretty good to know,” he said. “It’s better to know that we won. It wouldn’t have been very celebratory if we had lost. I’m happy about it, it’s cool to know and see, but it’s better that we won.” 

The Orange will return to Barclays Center for the Empire Classic Championship game against St. John’s at 9 p.m. Tuesday, which will air on ESPN2. 

“We love playing in big games … and we wanted to come down here, compete against some good teams, and show that we can win against top opponents,” Girard says. “We just love playing in big games. The atmosphere is different.”