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As Jimmy Boeheim backed his man down in the post, he spotted Buddy Boeheim peeling away from his defender. Like a pitcher, Jimmy slung a pass with his right arm to his brother. The pass was a little wide so Buddy tipped it to himself and then rose up for a fadeaway 3 as he fell out of bounds. The ball bounced high on the rim before dropping in. Head coach Jim Boeheim compared Buddy’s 3 to the one that NBA star Kawhi Leonard hit for the Toronto Raptors against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2019 NBA playoffs.
“The last one he made in the corner was one of the toughest shots I’ve ever seen,” Boeheim said.
As Buddy jogged back on defense, a grin appeared on his face, one that hasn’t been seen for a couple of games. On Tuesday, Buddy scored 24 points with five 3 pointers to help Syracuse (8-8, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) get a much needed 77-61 victory over Pittsburgh (6-10, 1-4 ACC). Buddy made four 3s in the first half, as he took advantage of off-ball screens to find open space.
“Tonight he got some open looks, which he never gets,” Boeheim said. “If he can get open looks, he’d shoot probably 45% or 50%.”
Buddy began the night on a 3 early in the shot clock. Joe Girard III dribbled the ball up, and before Pitt defenders could pressure him, he passed the ball to Buddy who launched a long 3 from a couple of feet behind the 3-point line.
Then, when the Panthers defense began to take away Buddy’s free space, he began to use screens to his advantage. As Symir Torrence brought the ball up the court, Buddy quickly ran from the paint and past a screen from Jesse Edwards with his hands up. Torrence swung him the ball, and Buddy caught the pass, rising up to drain a 3 with his defender struggling to keep up.
“Those were early buckets (when) we weren’t doing much offensively. We were struggling,” Boeheim said. “Fortunately, Buddy made those shots, and we finished the half well.”
After another off-screen 3, it looked like Pitt realized its mistake and followed Buddy around the court. Buddy tried to use a screen to get an open corner, but when he looked up, he was blanketed by his defender. Instead, Buddy dribbled back out to the wing to find some space, motioning for Edwards to come up for a screen. As the center trotted up to him, Buddy threw a quick pass to Edwards, who used his large frame to set a pick on Buddy’s defender. Edwards returned the pass to Buddy, who drained the open 3.
Buddy hit four 3s in about four and a half minutes. During that stretch, he singlehandedly outscored Pittsburgh’s offense, who managed just nine points to Buddy’s 12.
“If Buddy didn’t make some really long 3s, we would’ve been down 10 or 12 points at halftime,” Boeheim said.
Entering tonight’s game, Buddy was 4-for-15 from 3 in the past two games against Miami and Wake Forest. He also lost control of the crucial inbounds pass from Jimmy with 11 seconds left against Wake Forest, finishing the game 5-for-20 from the field. After the loss, Boeheim said that Buddy wasn’t getting many open looks and that most of his shots were difficult to make.
But tonight, Buddy finished the game 5-for-8 from 3, his best mark since making 4-of-6 against Brown back in December. Buddy also made the majority of Syracuse’s 3-pointers tonight, as Jimmy was the only other player to make a shot from beyond the arc. Cole Swider said that — as shooters — once the first few shots go down, it becomes a lot easier to make the rest.
“Once you see a couple go down, the rim gets a lot bigger,” Swider said. “It was big for him to make those 3s and once he gets going, he makes a lot of tough shots.”
After struggling early, it was around this time last season when Buddy began to heat up. He scored 29 in a win over Notre Dame, which was the 19th game last season, and proceeded to score at least 20 points in six of his last nine. All things considered, tonight’s 24-point bounce-back performance may be a sign of things to come.
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