Syracuse waltzed into Hinkle Fieldhouse tonight and trounced San Diego State 78-62. This was a blood bath. Buddy Boeheim was on fire, as per usual. The junior was downing buckets from wherever he wanted to over whoever he wanted to, 4-point plays and all, Boeheim finished with 30. It wasn‚Äôt only the coach‚Äôs son however, Joe Girard was a huge contributor. Surprisingly enough, Girard turned it on for 12 points. If you‚Äôd said that he‚Äôd be a huge factor in tonight‚Äôs victory a few games into the regular season I‚Äôm not sure many fans would‚Äôve believed you. Nevertheless, Girard came in clutch and the Orange hope he brings more of the same going forward. The Orange finished the half-up 32-18 on an 18-0 run and didn‚Äôt look back. In the second half things didn‚Äôt change, Boeheim continued his rain of terror, and the Orange depth proved effective. Jesse Edwards looked confident under the rim, something he‚Äôd been having trouble with recently. The Dutch big provided great help on the boards and on the interior.
On the defensive end, the 2-3 zone was running beautifully, which is evident from the score. That‚Äôs at least in part due to the unfamiliarity SDSU has against a zone. We heard Aztecs Head Coach Brian Dutcher say last week that they hadn‚Äôt played a zone all year. That‚Äôs an extremely underrated part of SU‚Äôs game. San Diego State looked lost on many offensive possessions, unable to find a shot, turning the ball over, and even committing shot-clock violations. The Aztecs finished up shooting 27.5% from deep. This was exactly the game Orange fans wanted to see. Both Buddy and Joe shooting well, everyone playing well on defense, creating momentum heading into their Round of 32 matchup against either West Virginia or Morehead State. Earlier this week Coach Boeheim told us in a press conference that the Orange play better later in the NCAA tournament because teams only have a few days to prepare for the zone. Whoever faces it next will have to do their homework if they want a chance at beating this red-hot Orange squad.
The fans made a huge difference in this one. Hinkle Fieldhouse is small, it only seats 9,100 regularly. Tonight, the historic stadium‚Äôs capacity was at just 14%, bringing that number down to 1,250. There was speculation before the game as to whether the Orange faithful would travel or not. They did big time. That 1,250 sounded like 30,000 fans inside the Carrier Dome going ballistic at every rebound, point, and call in SU‚Äôs favor. It‚Äôs exactly what the Orange needed and ultimately a huge factor in their victory.
Here‚Äôs the question now: How far can the Orange take it? As we all know last time Syracuse appeared in the NCAA tournament they were bounced in the first round. However, the year before they were in a similar situation to the one they find themselves in now. An 11 seed that had just taken down No. 6 TCU. They went on to shock Michigan State in the Round of 32 only to fall to Duke in the Sweet 16. If we look ahead at Syracuse‚Äôs possible future opponents we first have West Virginia or Morehead State in the second round. That‚Äôs a tough game, either way, both teams present different challenges for Syracuse, but both very winnable. If SU wins on Sunday we look toward the Sweet 16. They‚Äôre looking at either Rutgers or Houston. The Cougars are the weakest 2 seed left. Obviously, that‚Äôs great news for the Orange, but you‚Äôd still be playing a team that‚Äôs won plenty this season. If it‚Äôs Rutgers, it will be a team SU has played this year. The Scarlet Knights beat Syracuse way back at the beginning of the regular season, but as we all know this Syracuse team is a different beast now. That‚Äôs a matchup Orange fans should be excited about if it ends up happening. Either way, the Orange have an opportunity to go deep, tonight‚Äôs performance says they‚Äôre ready for the challenge.