According to the NCAA, Jim Boeheim won his 899th game when Syracuse pulled off a 66-62 upset over No. 9 Virginia Saturday. The people over at the NCAA offices were probably very confused as to why Jim Boeheim received a louder than usual ovation when he walked out onto the court, or why the Hall-of-Fame coach got so emotional after the win. To just about everyone but the NCAA, this was not Jim Boeheim’s 899th win. Syracuse fans know Jim Boeheim hit the 1000 win mark Saturday, and the way the Orange won it was fitting for the occasion.
Syracuse’s win over Virginia was eerily similar to the Orange’s comeback win over the Cavaliers in last year’s Elite Eight (ironically, this win could help Syracuse get into the NCAA Tournament again this year, but we’ll save that conversation for a couple weeks from now). In the first half, the Carrier Dome saw the bad Syracuse. Virginia was able to work its way inside Boeheim’s 2-3 zone and outrebounded the Orange 17-9. The Cavs shot 52 percent on the half and 7-11 from behind the arc. Tyler Lydon scored two points on four shots and John Gillon ran the momentum of his 43-point game into the ground with a goose egg. The only player keeping Syracuse close was Tyus Battle, who scored 10. Syracuse trailed 34-22 at the half. In the Elite Eight last season, it was down 35-21.
Something changed in the second half. Jim Boeheim had used his zone for 999 wins before, and the adjustments he made to it in this game won him No. 1000. Syracuse didn’t allow a point in the first seven minutes of the half, and the Orange went on an 11-0 run during that stretch and brought SU within one. Syracuse’s first lead came from a Tyler Lydon three which put Syracuse up 39-36. Virginia wouldn’t lead again.
“We didn’t really make any adjustment,” said Lydon. “We knew what we had to do on the defensive end, and I think we were able to go out and execute that. That was the biggest thing.”
“On the defensive end. we were just moving more, closing out on shooters and limiting inside touches, Tyus Battle said after the game. “Offensively, just opening lanes up … and more of our guards attacking the basket and getting shots.”
The shots were falling in the second half for everyone. Syracuse shot 73.7 percent after the break and went 4-6 from three. The Orange scored 44 points in the second half to Virginia’s 28. Andrew White and Tyus Battle led the way with 23 points each, but the post-game conversation wasn’t about either of them… or Syracuse’s second straight comeback win from down double-digits… or its second straight win over a top 10 team… or its first four-game winning streak since the Orange started the season 4-0.
“I don’t really talk about this,’ said Boeheim when asked about 1000 wins. “I’m happy that we got to 15 [wins this season]. I know how many wins I have. I’m very proud of it… The people here feel we should not have lost those wins and that’s probably the way all fans feel. We’re not going to sit here and debate that anymore. There was obviously some question as to whether some of those or all of those should have been taken, but they have.”
“We know what history is,” Tyus Battle said after the game. “We know what this game is.”
Jim Boeheim goes for win No. 900 in South Carolina Tuesday when the Orange visits Clemson.