32 games, 650 minutes, and an 18-14 overall record. That was Syracuse basketball’s season. It had its ups and its downs. There were plenty of games that the Orange should have won and they didn’t and vice versa. Just like every year, there were flashes of Cardiac Cuse, whether it be in a good way or a bad way. With the season officially in the books, here are the top five games of the 2019-20 campaign:
5. DEC. 7 – @ GEORGIA TECH – W, 97-63
Going into this game Syracuse had lost three straight and didn’t have a win against Power Five competition. Its only victories came against Colgate, Seattle, Cornell and Bucknell. The season looked bleak with the ACC slate just around the corner; but against Georgia Tech, Syracuse woke up and put together a complete game.
Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim both had outstanding games, something that was very rare this season, most of the time only one of them would be hot while the other faltered. Hughes and Boeheim turned in career highs with 33 points and 26 points respectively.
The Syracuse defense was much improved after Jim Boeheim decided to move the wings up more in the zone. That SU zone held Michael DeVoe, who at the time was the ACC’s leading scorer, to just seven points. Plus, Bourama Sidibe had a career high five steals.
Heading into the game, the paint was projected to be an issue for the Orange, but it didn’t end up hurting them. Georgia Tech’s James Banks and Moses Wright were supposed to feast on the inside, but combined for only 25 points and 12 boards. SU outrebounded GT 40-30.
4. FEB. 15 – @ FLORIDA STATE – L, 80-77
Yes this game ended as a loss for Syracuse, but it was still a very impressive showing. Their backs were against the wall, their tournament hopes were dwindling and despite that the Orange took the eighth ranked team in the country down to the wire.
Hughes came back from sitting out the previous game due to a lower-body injury and poured in 25 points. Joe Girard splashed five threes and tallied 22 points. Even Quincy Guerrier got in on the action and contributed 13 points. Those guys all stepped up in the absence of Buddy, who was held scoreless.
Syracuse was up by three with less than three minutes left and only down by one with 30 seconds left. If it wasn’t for some late game heroics by the Seminoles, the Orange would have taken down one of the best teams in the country on the road. It would have been a statement win and really helped their resume. Despite the final result, this was one of the best Syracuse games this year.
3. FEB. 8 – VS. WAKE FOREST- W, 75-73
There were no crazy individual performances, even though Buddy and Hughes both scored in the 20’s. Instead, there was actually a lot of disappointment in this game from a Syracuse standpoint. It should have never been a close game. The Orange were up by eight at halftime and ten with about 11 minutes left, but that lead slipped away quick. Plus, Sidibe, Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj all fouled out. Sidibe and Guerrier did it in just 15 minutes of playing.
The reason why this is on the list of best games is because of what happened in the final seconds. With all of the foul trouble, two freshmen that barely played, Jessie Edwards and Brycen Goodine, were in during the final stretch. The game was tied with 21 seconds left, Hughes’s last second shot missed, but Edwards tapped the rebound to Goodine who went back up with it and made the game winning layup.
A last second game winner automatically gets you on the top five list.
2. MAR. 11 – VS. NORTH CAROLINA – W, 81-53
Less than two weeks before this game, North Carolina routed Syracuse in the final game under the air-supported Dome roof. The Tar Heels ruined the Orange’s Senior Day with a 92-79 win. UNC’s Garrison Brooks went off for 26 points and 14 rebounds, while Cole Anthony added 25 points. So to say that seeing North Carolina a couple days later in the first round of the ACC Tournament was a frightful sight is an understatement. SU was the six seed going against the 14 seed, but was still the underdog.
The second matchup was the complete opposite. Syracuse put together its most well rounded performance of the entire season. Hughes flirted with a double-double with 27 points and 8 rebounds. Buddy contributed 17 points, Dolezaj with 13, Sidibe didn’t foul out and got a double-double with 12 points and 13 boards.
North Carolina, on the other hand, was only able to muster 53 points and just two players scored in double-digits. Anthony was held to only five points.
The win snapped Syracuse’s nine-game losing skid to North Carolina. The game ended up being the last game of the season for SU and the entire ACC. It was the best overall performance of the year and it was a great way to go out.
1. JAN. 11 – @ VIRGINIA – W, 63-55
The North Carolina game might very well deserve to be in this top spot because of Syracuse’s dominance, but this top five list is ranking the best games and the hands-down best game of the season was when Syracuse went to Charlottesville in January.
The Orange went into the game losers of two straight, only had one Power Five win, hadn’t won at John Paul Jones Arena since 2007, and were going up against the team who held them to just 34 points in the season opener. The odds were against SU.
Neither team looked great or could pull ahead. Syracuse went into the halftime break up by four and went back-and-forth with Virginia in the second. The Orange didn’t score in the final three minutes of regulation and missed some good looks.
In overtime, however, they didn’t miss. Syracuse shot 86% from the field and went 5-6 from deep in OT. The excitement was palpable even being hundreds of miles away. The Orange went unconscious in overtime and it was far-and-away the most enjoyable five minutes of play of the season.
The closeness of the game and then the excitement at the end is what earns this game the number one ranking on the top five list.
We’ll continue to unveil our top five lists in the coming days and weeks. Click here for the rest of the lists and relive the 2019-20 Syracuse basketball season with us.