Hurricanes Tear Through Orange, End their Regular Season
By Sam Rothman
CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter
All eyes were on Joe Girard III when he arrived in Syracuse. New York’s all-time high school leading scorer grabbed headlines across the Salt City. But, in his final regular season game against Miami, all the attraction was on the freshman again, this time for a different reason.
The Orange trailed the Hurricanes by four with ten seconds left on the clock. Girard pulled the team within two as he drove to the basket and cashed in. With 1.5 seconds remaining, the freshman knocked down a jumper to extend the Orange’s regular season just a little longer. However, Miami took control in overtime to secure the 69-65 win.
One may question why Girard, a rookie, had the ball in his hands at these crucial moments. Usually, you would see a veteran leader on the court. In recent years, that’s been Tyus Battle or Tyler Lydon. This year, it would’ve been Elijah Hughes, but with the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading scorer on the bench after hitting his head on teammate Bourama Sidibe’s knee, it was up to Girard. No pressure, kid.
“In end game situations, that’s where Elijah usually has the ball,” said Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim. “Now we’re giving it to a freshman, so it’s very difficult. You don’t want to ask a freshman to have to do that yet.”
While Girard was the key to the Orange’s second-half comeback, he went cold in overtime. The freshman went 0-for-4, which included three missed three-pointers.
“He’s [Hughes] the best player in the ACC,” said Girard. “So, it obviously hurts when he goes down, but everybody else just has to step up.”
On the other side, the Hurricanes also found themselves in a similar situation. Miami’s leading scorer, Chris Lykes, wasn’t in the lineup after taking a hit in the Canes’ previous game against the Virginia Cavaliers. However, in their case, it allowed other guys to step up, one in particular who Boeheim felt is actually more dangerous.
“I would’ve liked for Lykes to play,” said Boeheim. “When he was out, [Isaiah] Wong started to go. He’s bigger and more difficult for us, size wise. Lykes is a really good player, but Wong is more of a concern because he’s bigger and gets to the basket.”
The freshman led Miami with 18 points, which included a couple of deep threes to pull the Hurricanes ahead both in the second half and in overtime. While Girard and the rest of the Orange struggled from downtown, the long ball turned out to be the key in Miami’s victory.
The Hurricanes knocked down seven from beyond the arc in the second, including three straight from DJ Vasiljevic. The Orange just couldn’t weather the three-point storm.
“It just opened up the game for them,” said SU guard Buddy Boeheim. “It just gives them confidence.”
That confidence carried over into overtime as Miami pulled ahead and never looked back.
Since Syracuse’s NCAA tournament bubble is all but popped, this loss doesn’t have an effect on the Orange’s chance of making the Big Dance. However, a win in Miami would have guaranteed SU the fifth-seed in the ACC tournament. The Orange will now be the sixth-seed, taking on UNC in Greensboro on Wednesday night.
If you thought the Hurricanes hit a lot of threes, just wait for the Orange’s matchup with the Tar Heels. They connected on 11 shots from downtown in their 92-79 win in Syracuse’s final game in the Dome. North Carolina was probably the one team SU did not want to face. The Orange will have their hands full.
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