When Jesse Edwards of all people hit a three-pointer, you thought to yourself “there is no possible way Syracuse will lose this game”. At that point, the Dome was perhaps the loudest it has been all season. And on Valentine’s Day, Cupid’s Arrow struck the Orange faithful in the form of a thrilling 75-72 victory over No. 23 NC State. The narrative of SU’s inability to close games against good teams was put to bed for now. There are plenty of good grades from this one, let’s get right into them.
JOE GIRARD: B
It was a tale of two halves for Girard tonight. Before the break, the Glens Falls native was running the offense. Afterward, not so much. Girard had 10 points in the first half but followed it up with just four in the second. To be honest, he also spent way too much time whining to the refs about calls. That cannot happen down the stretch. But you didn’t see him chucking up bad shots like he’s done in the past. A good, but not great performance.
JESSE EDWARDS: A+
A big theme of this season for Edwards has been getting physical down low, and he was presented a challenge tonight in the form of 6-9, 275-pound DJ Burns. For the most part, he was up for it. 5-14 shooting is not pretty, but the Flying Dutchman made up for it by getting to the free throw line 7 times and knocking down 6 of them. Oh yeah, he also grabbed 16 rebounds. And who can forget about that three-pointer? Sure, the perimeter game was a product of an expiring shot clock, but this may have been Edwards’ best all-around game of his career (thanks to the three-pointer).
JUDAH MINTZ: A+
Reports came out earlier in the day that Mintz is looking like a day 2 draft pick. He’ll likely fly up draft boards after tonight. For the first time in a while, the freshman was under control down the stretch, as evidenced by his 20 points and 9 assists. Mintz also hit some critical shots late from beyond the arc and the free-throw line, a few places he’s struggled from in the past. If you want to boost your draft stock, performances like this are how you do it.
CHRIS BELL: A-
First of all, Bell had three rebounds. After snatching six against Florida State, it’s the first time the California native has at least three boards in back-to-back games this season. Has the message finally sunk in? Additionally, Bell had a silent 11 points, and that’s good in this context. Sure, he didn’t have the best shooting night, but it appears as though the freshman is finally starting to get more comfortable in Boeheim’s system.
MALIQ BROWN: B
Brown didn’t do anything outstanding in this one, but to his credit, he also didn’t do anything poorly. The Virginia native showed off his athleticism by catching a few lobs and was active on the glass, but he didn’t make any game-changing plays as we’ve seen in the past. Granted, they weren’t needed tonight, but you would have liked to see Brown play with a little more assertiveness.
Overall, it was an extremely well-balanced scoring attack from the Orange tonight. Now let’s see if we can get some momentum going to salvage the season. With Duke coming to the Dome on Saturday, there’s no better time than now.