Too close for comfort

The Orange survived a scare Sunday slipping by William & Mary 63-60 in the Carrier Dome.

Last Sunday Jim Boeheim didn’t hold any punches back when he spoke about his team during a post game press conference after defeating Canisius. “Right now, we’re the most overrated team that I’ve ever had.”

Most fans thought Boeheim said it to motivate his squad, but if that didn’t work William & Mary did enough to get his team’s attention.  On Sunday, SU survived a thriller in where they only led by two points at the half, and were knotted in a tie with less than two minutes left.

“We had 6 veteran guys last year out of 7 and this year we don’t. We had 2 great 3-point shooters last year, this year we don’t.” -Jim Boeheim

“These teams are difficult to play against,” said Boeheim. “They’re holding the ball and playing zone and we don’t see that a lot. But the more we have games like this the more teams are going to be playing zone against us.”

William & Mary played a match-up zone that looked almost like a 1-3-1 at times throughout the game.  The stifling defense of the Tribe forced the Orange into quick shots, but oddly only caused 8 turnovers. The slow starts that the Orange have been accustomed to this season were evident again as they led only 12-9 ten minutes through the opening half.  The Orange were held to 36.7% shooting in the game, and had another dismal night from the behind the arc again as they went 5-22 for only 22.7%.

“It doesn’t matter how many times I say it I don’t think anybody is listening,” said Boeheim. “We had 6 veteran guys last year out of 7 and this year we don’t. We had 2 great 3-point shooters last year, this year we don’t.”

From the opening tip the game was a back-and-forth ordeal.  Whenever the Orange made a run to pull away, the Tribe came right back with a run of their own. Marcus Kitts led the way for William & Mary on the inside as the  6’9” senior had 8 rebounds to go along with his 16 points. Quinn McDowell led the charge on the perimeter with 16 points on 4-7 shooting from behind the arc. The junior swingman hit a clutch three pointer from nearly half court as the game grew even closer in the final half.

But while McDowell and Kitts led the Tribe in scoring, it was Julian Boatner that delivered energy and big time baskets off the bench. The freshmen guard finished the game with 11 points, but seemed to knock down clutch three pointers every time the Orange tried to pull away.

“He played well,” said Head Coach Tony Shaver. “He hit big shots, but I was happy with his energy that he brought tonight. He brought a lot of energy and excitement to our ball club tonight and he was a big part of it.”

Free throw shooting became a huge factor down the stretch as both teams left a lot of points on the line. William & Mary were only 8-14 from the line while SU didn’t fair much better shooting 63.6% on 14-22 attempts.

Scoop Jardine led the scoring push for SU in the first half, but transitioned into a facilitator in the second. Alley-oops to Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson woke the 17,933 in attendance up inside the Carrier Dome as SU needed all the fan support they could get. Joseph led all scorers with 18 points and 7 rebounds, while Jardine finished with 11 and dished out 9 assists.  Jackson was a force in the paint as he grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his 11 points. Freshman Fab Melo had another subpar performance as he went scoreless with just 2 rebounds in only 12 minutes of action.

“We’re only playing one half of basketball,” said Jardine. “We’ve got to pick it up because coach is doing a great job of preparing us. We have to get ready and get out and jump on teams early.”

The game was a part of the Legends Classic, and the team will travel to Atlantic City to play Michigan on Friday in the next round. 

(Photo: Alex Pines)

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