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With 22 seconds left in overtime, Syracuse held a one-point lead over Georgia Tech. Joe Girard III dribbled up to half court but was quickly double-teamed and forced to pass to Buddy Boeheim. As Buddy gathered the ball, Georgia Tech’s Khalid Moore sneaked behind him and smacked the ball out of Buddy’s hands and toward the scorer’s table.
After a review, the referees deemed the ball touched Buddy last, giving GT possession and a chance to win the game. The Yellow Jackets found Michael Devoe, who missed twice, but Dallan Coleman and Cole Swider both grabbed the ensuing rebound, leading to a jump ball that gave possession — and another chance at a game-winning basket — to GT with 3.3 seconds left.
Head coach Jim Boeheim said the defensive game plan was to force the Yellow Jackets to throw the ball back up top rather than into the paint, which is exactly what Georgia Tech did. The ball reached Devoe at the top of the arc, and the guard took one step forward before launching an off-balance jumper that once again missed, hitting the rim and falling wide. When the final buzzer sounded, the Orange had survived the final onslaught of GT shots and secured a much-needed home win.
“You’re trying to do everything you can to get that final stop,” Jimmy Boeheim said. “It felt like it lasted for like an hour, but we got it.”
Syracuse (15-12, 9-7 Atlantic Coast) won a back-and-forth game over Georgia Tech (11-16, 4-12 ACC) 74-73 on Monday to pick up its fifth straight home win, and sixth in the last seven games. But an offense that has boosted the Orange to those five wins struggled, shooting just 32.9% from the field. Jimmy kept SU in the game early with 15 first-half points, while Buddy was held scoreless for the first 24 minutes of the game, and Swider was the only starter to shoot over 40%, finishing with 18 points.
“It’s seldom that Buddy and Jimmy both have bad shooting nights. They both did. Joe did. Cole was a superstar compared to them, and yet we’re able to get a stop at the end,” Boeheim said. “But when you shoot that poorly for us to still be able to win the game, it’s a lot of guts, a lot of determination.”
Tuesday was Syracuse’s worst shooting performance since its loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 25. Jimmy helped SU early by ending the four-minute stretch without a field goal to start the game. Meanwhile, Buddy struggled, going 0-for-7 in the opening half and missing several open looks.
“I honestly just missed a lot of shots I shouldn’t,” Buddy said. “I was frustrated with myself.”
Jimmy’s 15 first-half points were nearly half of the Orange’s total as they headed into halftime tied at 33. Swider was the lone consistent option, scoring seven in the first half and eight in the second half. Both he and Jimmy finished the game with a double-double.
Out of halftime, Buddy and the rest of the team showed signs of improvement. He scored eight points in a three-minute stretch midway through the second half, finding a way to get to his usual spots and hit the same attempts he had missed in the first half.
After neither team could take control of the game, Syracuse found itself with a chance to take the lead with the score tied at 63 in the final minute of regulation. Buddy isolated his defender and tried to gain some separation, and after a quick spin, rose for a shot that he had made earlier, but this time, it rimmed out.
The Yellow Jackets squandered their chance, too, as Syracuse’s defense forced a shot clock violation. And after Jimmy missed a right-handed attempt in the lane, the game went to overtime.
In the extra period, both teams were unable to consistently score. After Jordan Usher hit two free throws to put GT up one, the Yellow Jackets had a chance to make it a two-possession game. Georgia Tech put the ball in the hands of Devoe, but he missed his 3 and the chance at a four-point lead that “would’ve been a backbreaker” to SU, Boeheim said.
After the miss, Girard grabbed the rebound and dribbled up the right side of the court. Near the right wing, Buddy curled up and grabbed the hand-off from Girard. Despite being 0-for-5 from beyond the arc at that point, Buddy rose up and hit the 3-pointer with Devoe’s hand in his face to give Syracuse a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“Joe and (Buddy) have been really good,” Boeheim said. “If they shoot 8-for-35 and you tell me we win, I’m going to be surprised.”
Even with that lead, Buddy missed another jumper and a corner 3 that could’ve increased Syracuse’s lead with less than a minute left, and his turnover near midcourt gave Georgia Tech a chance to win the game. The offense may have been the key in delivering recent wins, but Monday, it took a defensive stand to win the game. The Orange forced misses from Devoe twice before he eventually missed his third chance at a game-winner as time expired.
“It’s a season-saving win right there going into a lot of big opportunities coming up,” Buddy said. “Just a huge improvement from our defense, and we don’t win that a month ago if we’re shooting like that.”
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