Syracuse, for the third straight time against Miami, blew a double-digit lead to the Hurricanes in an eventual loss. SU led by as many as 11 in the second half, but costly rebounding issues and turnovers put a nail in the Orange’s coffin as Miami made all its key free throws down the stretch.
That wasted terrific performances from Joe Girard III, who scored 21 points on only a single three-pointer, showing he can score in a variety of ways. The senior used his broad frame to his advantage, consistently backing down ‘Canes guard Nigel Pack and rising over him from mid-range. It was a very impressive performance offensively.
Then there’s Jesse Edwards, who scored a career-high 25 points to go with 11 rebounds. It took a while for the senior center to get going, as Miami’s physicality with him on offense was a factor in the first 10/15 minutes of the game as Jim Boeheim inserted Mounir Hima for a spark at one point. But Edwards responded, and did a great job in the pick-and-roll game catching and finishing, plus he went seven for eight at the foul line.
Benny Williams had a bounce-back performance with 12 points and five rebounds, including a couple of threes to get his confidence back. Justin Taylor had a couple of big threes off the bench, Chris Bell struggled but played 19 minutes, and Maliq Brown saw just 13 minutes because Williams was thriving.
If you haven’t noticed, one big name is missing from this piece so far. It was a tough night for Judah Mintz in Miami, the most talented player on Syracuse’s team finally showed that all freshmen have tough nights. Mintz did end up with six assists on some great inside feeds to Edwards, but he also had five turnovers, including the game-sealer with under 15 seconds to go and the Orange trailing by two.
But, Boeheim said after the game that Mintz has been great all season (he has) and that this was just a night to learn and get better (it is). Despite only scoring three points, he’s still averaging almost 15 points a game and almost four and a half assists a contest. That’s pretty, pretty good.
So, you look at all the positives from this game, Girard scoring without the three, Edwards dealing with physicality and responding, Williams finding his confidence, and the other role players fitting in where they see fit, and if Mintz can get back on track and all of the other variables stay constant, Syracuse can become a dangerous team.
That is much easier said than done, but it’s clear that it’s possible to put all the pieces together and have them work at the same time. The Orange are in a position where this stretch to the end of January can make or break their standing in the ACC. Road games at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech plus home tilts with North Carolina and Virginia close the month, and the Orange need to go 2-2 to have any sort of chance at the postseason. Let’s see if these lessons learned in Miami can help Syracuse get back on track this weekend.