Syracuse basketball ends regular season with 72-63 Senior Day win

Syracuse basketball ends regular season with 72-63 Senior Day win

The Orange National Champions are honored during halftime of SU-Wake Forest game.
Published: March 4, 2023
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Syracuse's Jesse Edwards (#14) jumps to grab a rebound from Wake Forest's Lucas Taylor (#0) during an ACC men's basketball game on Saturday at the JMA Wireless Dome.

It was a special Saturday night at the JMA Wireless Dome as the Orange took the court against Wake Forest, beating them 72-63. Not only was it Senior Day, but the players on the 2003 men’s basketball team were also honored for the 20th anniversary of winning the NCAA national championship.

All of this took place during the team’s final game of the regular season, making it an emotional night for both players and coaches.

“We really wanted to come out and play for Gmac (Gerry McNamara) and Hak (Hakim Warrick), so that was an important win and to do it on Senior Day really felt great,” senior center Jesse Edwards said.

Before the game got underway, the four Orange seniors were brought out onto the court for a special ceremony. John Bol Ajak, Joseph Girard III, Symir Torrence and Edwards were all honored with their own framed jerseys and photos with their families.

“Having Sy (Symir Torrence) and Joe (Girard III) as backcourt teammates was really big for me, especially from a mental standpoint,” freshman point guard Judah Mintz said. “They just helped me keep my head after going through tough games, so they’ve been really helpful and it’s been great playing with them.”

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Syracuse seniors (from left) Symir Torence, John Bo Ajak, Jesse Edwards and Joseph Girard III hold their jerseys for the crowd to see during the Senior Day celebration before the start of the game.

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Carmelo Anthony speaks while surrouded by fellow members of the 2003 NCAA Championship Team.

The game couldn’t have begun any better as the Orange won the opening tip-off and Dutch senior Jesse Edwards put the ball in the basket for the first points of the game. They were the first points in a terrific game for the big man, who matched his career best with 27 points paired with 20 rebounds.

On the ensuing possession, Wake Forest forward Andrew Carr hoisted a 3-pointer from the corner, but the outstretched left arm of Edwards got just enough on the ball to send it back down to the court prematurely. Cameron Hildreth got the offensive rebound and proceeded to go up for a layup that was promptly swatted by Syracuse’s Chris Bell, ending the Wake Forest possession.

Still, the game was neck and neck early on. The Demon Deacons and Syracuse battled it out at the start of the first half, but the momentum began to shift in Syracuse’s favor with nine minutes left to play.

Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes was assessed a technical foul after jawing with the refs about what he thought was a missed call.

This sparked an 11-0 run in two minutes for the Orange. The scoring frenzy was capped off on a fast break where Mintz found fellow freshman Maliq Brown with a bounce pass for an easy layup. The bucket put Syracuse up 25-14, forcing Forbes to call a timeout to try and get his team back in the game.

Wake Forest didn’t let the Syracuse lead get any worse after that, and the first half came to an end with the Demon Deacons trailing 39-29.

“(In the) first half we forced Wake Forest into a lot of mistakes,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “They cleaned it up in the second half.”

At halftime, members of the 2003 National Championship team were brought out onto the court and honored with their teammates. Fans in the Dome cheered as each player was introduced, but especially for Carmelo Anthony, the leader of that talented championship team.

“That whole team was a great group. You just can’t ask for a better group. They struggled at times, during that year, but they just wouldn’t let anything get the better of them,” Boeheim said about the 2003 team.

The second half soon began, with Girard sinking a jumper for Syracuse’s first points of the final 20 minutes of action. Three minutes later, Girard dished the ball to Edwards who slammed it down while being fouled for an emphatic two-handed jam. The crowd roared, and Edwards made a motion for them to get louder, firing them up even more.

With 11 minutes left to play, Edwards was fouled once again while backing down Carr in the paint. It was one too many fouls for Carr, who fouled out of the game.

Two minutes later, Edwards scored on back-to-back possessions to put Syracuse up 60-44, forcing Forbes to call a timeout. At this point Edwards had 23 points and was four rebounds shy of notching 20 boards on the night. The senior recorded his 20th rebound a couple minutes later after scooping up Wake Forest’s Daven Williamson’s missed three off the glass.

“Jesse (Edwards) was all over the glass, he had five steals,” Boeheim said. “You can’t play better than that. He was just in a different world today.”

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Syracuse's Chris Bell (#0) crashes into Wake Forest's Tyree Appleby (#1) while defending.

The game soon came to an end as Wake Forest guard Tyree Appleby dribbled out the rest of the clock, as the Orange capped off the regular season with a 72-63 win over the Demon Deacons.

Immediately after the game, both Warwick (#1) and McNamara’s (#3) jerseys were lifted up into the rafters at the JMA Wireless Dome, cementing their status as Syracuse legends.

“Hakeem was a great player. There’s no doubt in my mind that he won the national championship for us with that block,” Boeheim said.

“We knew right away the heart that he (McNamara) had. Obviously he could shoot, but a lot of guys can do that. He just had the heart where he always knew he would find a way to perform,” Boeheim said.

The next battle for the Orange will be against a familiar face — Wake Forest. The two teams will face off once again in the second round of the ACC Tournament noon on Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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Gerry McNamara (right) and Hakim Warrick shake hands during a Syracuse jersey retirement ceremony.

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Gerry McNamara's and Hakim Warrick's banners are raised during a jersey retirement ceremony.