It’s hard to imagine that Syracuse men’s basketball has gone through any week as whiplash-inducing as the one they just powered through. The Orange played two games this week – on Tuesday and again at home last night – and could not have looked more different from one game to another if they tried.
After Tuesday’s 64-53 dud against Pitt, a program barely getting to its knees following a decade of incompetence, gallow’s humor was all the rage up on The Hill. Here at the Fizz, we took a look back at our ill-advised preseason predictions and laughed heartily at how much better this team was supposed to be. Confusing comments from Jim Boeheim about one of his players didn’t help matters and only fueled a pretty distinct feeling of dysfunction. By Wednesday morning, forget one foot in the grave – you would’ve thought SU’s program was halfway slid into a slot in the morgue.
Then came Saturday’s game, and none of it mattered anymore. At least, not for one evening.
In front of this season’s largest college basketball crowd and NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, SU decisively threw cold water on the post-Pitt hysterics by turning in a vintage performance. In a 94-72 bludgeoning over a Wake Forest team that entered 17-4, the Orange looked exactly like the high-flying, run-and-gun outfit we expected coming into the season. That fact, in this day and age where things like sports and crowds can’t be taken for granted, is all that really matters.
In whitewashing Wake, ‘Cuse ended up doing a couple things people had been clamoring for. Jim Boeheim dipped into his bench and gave freshman forward Benny Williams 10 fairly meaningful minutes. Along with center Frank Anselem and a still-hobbled Symir Torrence, SU’s bench gave the starting five enough to shove away the specter of another second half collapse. Instead, Syracuse lifted off in the final 20 minutes after entering the break trailing 42-39 and outscored Wake 55-30 the rest of the way. A 30-point night from Buddy Boeheim and the best game of forward Cole Swider’s SU career didn’t hurt, either.
After Tuesday’s cratering of morale and calls from the recruiting world to keep supporting the program, this was a win SU desperately needed. Yes, the squad is still 10-11 with obvious flaws, but they woke up this morning with some much-needed catharsis after a frustrating week – and with a win in their corner instead of a possible season-ending loss. So take heart, Fizz Nation. Things might not be going the way you thought they would for this team, but take nights like Saturday in stride. There may be only so many more left under Jim Boeheim.