Syracuse men’s basketball opens ACC Tournament with resounding victory

SU men's basketball opens ACC Tournament with resounding victory

The Orange defeated NC State for the third time this season behind Buddy Boeheim's 27 points.
Published: March 10, 2021
Syracuse's Quincy Guerrier (1) slams in two during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
Syracuse's Quincy Guerrier (1) dunks during the first half of NC State’s game against Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.

After a first round bye, Syracuse men’s basketball tipped off its ACC Tournament run with an 89-68 victory over the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the Greensboro Coliseum. Buddy Boeheim led all scorers with 27 points after a 20-point first half effort and tied his season-high with six 3-pointers.

Syracuse headed into the ACC Tournament as the No. 8 seed, one spot higher than NC State, and the Orange had bested the Wolfpack twice this season. Most recently, the Orange traveled to NC State and emerged victorious, 77-68.

In the first two matchups, the Wolfpack had no answer for Alan Griffin, who averaged 20.5 points in the two contests.

Griffin helped ignite the Orange offense to start the game with a deep 3-pointer to put the Orange ahead, 5-2. Later, while behind the arc on the wing, Griffin threw up a cross-court lob to a cutting Quincy Guerrier for a thunderous alley-oop.

Guerrier, whose 8.9 rebounds per game ranks second in the ACC, added a deep all of his own after a defensive stop, but Syracuse found themselves down 11-10 after five minutes.

Joe Girard III helped put the Orange back in front with a silky smooth midrange jump shot followed by a converted and-one layup spun high off the glass and finished at the line. Boeheim contributed a floater and a three to cap off a 12-1 run to take a 22-12 lead.

Boeheim stayed hot through the opening of the first half, hitting two additional 3-pointers, but he air balled a heat-check shot to cap his early run at 13 points. Marek Dolezaj joined the offensive action with a midrange jumper to widen the SU lead to 30-23.

Wolfpack senior Braxton Beverly became the 54th player in team history to eclipse 1,000 career points with a 3-pointer midway through the first half.

NC State switched to a full-court press to slow the ‘Cuse offense, and they were able to force a turnover, ut on the next possession, the ball found Boeheim for another open 3-pointer.

After two strong rebounds by Jesse Edwards, Boeheim hit a midrange jumper and a floater to give him 20 points in the half, his season-high against the Wolfpack. The team entered the locker room with a 43-38 lead.

Heading into the break, Syracuse outshot the Wolfpack 58% to 42%, but NC State kept things close with eight more free throw attempts. The Orange managed five blocks in the first half, but they were out-rebounded after allowing 10 on the offensive glass.

In the postgame press conference, head coach Jim Boeheim spoke about Syracuse’s hot start and strong offensive performance.

“You know, the first half, we just couldn’t stop them, and they couldn’t stop us,” Jim Boeheim said. “Everybody was looking for Buddy. Buddy got the hot hand early, and they were just looking for him, and he knocked them down.”

Buddy Boeheim (35) shoots over a defender during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
Buddy Boeheim (35) shoots over a defender during the first half of NC State’s game against Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The Orange opened the second half with Guerrier’s second 3-pointer of the game as the Wolfpack defense dared him to score with a slow defensive rotation. The floodgates opened as Griffin and Girard widened the lead to 15 points, and Boeheim added a four-point play to put the Orange up 57-41.

Guerrier and Girard joined Boeheim as double-digit scorers midway through the second half. On the other end of the floor, Griffin squared up his man and pounced for a huge one-handed block.

With just under 11 minutes remaining in the second half, Guerrier was tagged with his fourth foul as he attempted to block an NC State shot in the paint. He appeared to be vertical as he challenged the shot, but the whistle blew and Jim Boeheim called him to the bench.

Syracuse passed the ball well on the next possession, but missed an open Dolezaj under the basket. Instead, with the shot clock expiring, Robert Braswell fired up and connected on a 3-pointer.

Dolezaj would not be denied on the next possession as he threw down a one-handed jam, and Braswell finished a three-point play the next time down the floor to extend the lead to 73-55.

Griffin added another block, and in transition, Boeheim found room and fired up another three in the eye of the NC State defense. The lead grew to 86-64 as the Orange rolled on offense, and Dolezaj took a heavy charge on the defensive end to keep the Wolfpack subdued.

Braswell knocked down his second 3 of the game to become the fifth player in double figures for the Orange, and Syracuse held on for the last seconds to emerge with an 89-68 win.

Along with a strong offensive performance, Buddy Boeheim praised Braswell’s defensive prowess in the postgame press conference.

“Rob has been tremendous down the stretch for us, not just offensively being a shooter, but he’s really good at — you know, when it goes in the high post, he drops down almost right away and he cuts that pass off,” Buddy Boeheim said. “And he got a couple deflections, steals, and you can trust him. You know he’s going to make the right play. He’s a really smart player. He’s grown a lot.”

Boeheim finished with 27 points, one shy SU’s ACC Tournament record, and he attempted multiple 3-pointers late in the game trying to break the mark before heading to the bench.

Syracuse out assisted NC State 19-11 and outshot them 56.7% to 36.2% from the field on the afternoon. The Orange poured in 14 3-pointers to just seven by the Wolfpack.

The dominant victory comes days before Sunday’s selection process for the NCAA Tournament. To increase their chances of competing in this year’s March Madness, the Orange will look for another strong showing tomorrow at noon against No. 1 seed Virginia.

With the top-seeded matchup looming, Jim Boeheim was still confident postgame in the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes despite acknowledging that their fate is out of their control.

“I think when you look at the profile overall, I think we’ve got a lot of good wins against good teams,” Jim Boeheim said. “I think we beat a team today that could have been in the tournament. They’ve won five straight games. They could have beaten us and had a chance to go to the tournament. Again, I think we did what we needed to do this year, but we’ll see what happens.”

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is a magazine, news and online graduate student and lead sports producer for The NewsHouse.