Buddy Boeheim has witnessed plenty of magical March moments as a spectator. Friday night, he got to author one of his own.
The son of legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who keyed his team’s out-of-nowhere run to the NCAA Tournament, led the Orange to an opening-round upset with a brilliant shooting display. The junior guard sank seven 3-pointers and scored 30 points as No. 11 seed Syracuse knocked off sixth-seeded San Diego State, 78-62, in a West Region contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Orange will meet No. 3 West Virginia in the second round on Sunday.
“It means everything to me,” Buddy Boeheim said, when asked about winning a tournament game while playing for his dad. “Wearing this jersey, having the best fans in the county no doubt. … I don’t care how many points I score. I just want to win
Dating to Feb. 9, Syracuse (17-9) has won eight of its last 11 games, defeating three tournament teams in that stretch. And the Orange seem to be getting better by the game. After beating Clemson by 10, blowing out North Carolina State and losing at the buzzer to Virginia, Jim Boeheim’s team ripped apart San Diego State (23-5).
Boeheim’s son has been the driving force in this stretch, averaging 20.1 points, and he scored at least 27 points in each of his last three games. Jim Boeheim didn’t take any credit, saying he doesn’t even talk to his son during games.
“He knows what he needs to do. He’s figured it out,” the coach said. “I’ve talked to him all his life. I don’t need to talk to him anymore.”
Added Buddy Boeheim: “He believed in me before I believed in myself.”
It wasn’t just the Buddy Boeheim show, though. Joe Girard III had 12 points and seven assists and Marek Dolezaj added 11 points and five assists.
The Orange manhandled San Diego’s State’s defense, ranked 22nd in efficiency, bludgeoning it from beyond the arc, going 15-for-27 on 3-point attempts. Their trademark 2-3 defense flummoxed the Aztecs, who shot 35 percent from the field and had a 10:19 scoring drought to close the first half.
“Tonight it was better than it’s been,” Jim Boeheim said of the zone. “You don’t see a zone all year, it’s a little more difficult.”
It’s now no longer a question of whether Syracuse belongs in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a matter of how far the Orange can go.