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With nine minutes left in the first half and Syracuse up by eight, Boston College brought the ball up the court looking for a way to tighten the game. Two possessions earlier, BC scored its first 3-pointer of the game after missing seven straight. The Eagles quickly worked the ball to the left side of the Syracuse zone before sending a quick pass to Andrew Kenny in the right corner.
As Kenny rose for what he thought was an open 3, Syracuse’s center charged over to contest the shot. But it wasn’t the Atlantic Coast Conference’s second-leading shot blocker Jesse Edwards or his replacement Frank Anselem. Instead, it was Bourama Sidibe who sprinted over and swatted Kenny’s shot into the Syracuse bench.
“I was just trying to make a play for the team,” Sidibe said. “When I got the block I was happy.”
Sidibe ended up logging 18 minutes, his most in two years, as he helped Syracuse (14-12, 8-7 Atlantic Coast) defeat Boston College (9-16, 4-11 ACC) 76-56. The center finished with four rebounds, two blocks, two steals and two points. He played just one minute less than Anselem, who is now the starter after Edwards’ season-ending wrist injury.
“So proud of him — he’s been through a lot,” Buddy Boeheim said. “We trust him to make plays in the zone, and he gave us a great boost to that. He’s a very capable player.”
Sidibe missed most of last year and the start of this year with various injuries. Prior to Saturday’s game, Sidibe appeared in five games this season playing just a few minutes each time. But today, Sidibe played more minutes combined than in any other game this season.
Head coach Jim Boeheim said that he turned to Sidibe early in today’s game because Anselem was in foul trouble early. Sidibe checked into the game at 12:51 in the first half right when Anselem picked up his second foul of the game.
Two minutes later, Sidibe used his length on defense to force a steal and passed to Cole Swider. He then ran up the court to the basket, before the trailing Swider hit Sidibe with a bounce pass for an easy layup. That layup was Sidibe’s first point since scoring against Clemson almost a month ago.
“I was glad to see Bourama get back in there,” Boeheim said. “Made a couple plays.”
Sidibe’s most important contributions came on the defensive end with his steals and blocks. Later in the first half, Boston missed yet another 3, but the ball trickled out of bounds off the Orange. On the ensuing inbound play, Sidibe tipped the pass toward the sideline. Right before it was going to trickle out, the center ran in and swatted the ball behind him before running into the stands. The Orange didn’t take advantage of that turnover, but a couple possessions later, Sidibe showed his strength inside.
Joe Girard III missed a corner 3, but when the ball bounced in the air off the rim, Sidibe rose up to grab the rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt. Sidibe ended up missing both free throws, showing some of the rust after not having played significant minutes for two years.
“Honestly it’s hard for me sometimes to stay on the floor for that long because I don’t have good conditioning,” Sidibe said. “I haven’t been running a lot. (Boeheim’s) trying to get me back a little bit, but I just want to get used to it.”
Earlier in the season, Boeheim explained that Sidibe needed extended minutes instead of a handful of minutes to play his way into game-readiness. Today, both of them admitted that Sidibe is still not game-ready and needs more work. Sidibe said he’s “not very close” to being back to the level he was two years ago where he had a double-double in three of his last five games.
“When all you’re doing is getting treatments and not playing, it’s awfully difficult,” Boeheim said. “It’s a shame because he was really rounding into a really good player, and I’m hoping we can get him back a little bit closer to that.”
On one of his final plays of the game, Sidibe showed a glimpse of what he used to be capable of. With just over 10 minutes left in the second half, BC’s Kanye Jones missed a jumper in transition. Sidibe was trailing the play, so BC’s James Karnik managed to grab the rebound. But when Karnik went back up for a layup, Sidibe came up behind him and sent the ball flying out of bounds.
At a point in the season where the Orange are looking for a new center to step up, Sidibe managed to provide a boost. With his conditioning and game-readiness still lagging, Sidibe won’t be able to contribute every night but might just prove to be a capable bench option on days like today.
“I know everybody from freshman Niko (Ruffin) to Frank. They’re all with me. They all want me to do well,” Sidibe said. “I’m back in this thing because I know I can help the team, and I’m going to try my best and try to help these guys so they are with me and I’m with them.”
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