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Sam Waardenburg brushed past Jesse Edwards as soon as Buddy Boeheim made his move to curl around the screen, instead doubling Syracuse’s guard near the top of the key and forcing him back a step. And with the open space, Edwards pivoted toward the basket and started his roll. There were under 13 minutes remaining in the second half, and the 14-point lead the Orange held at halftime had already evaporated behind a flurry of Miami 3s and SU turnovers.
The Hurricanes led by one when Buddy dribbled the ball up following Waardenburg’s layup at the other end, and with Syracuse needing a basket to remain in striking distance of a back-and-forth game, Miami doubled the best opposing scorer just like they had all game.
That’d opened up opportunities for Edwards and others in the first half — a feature of Buddy’s game that he’s prided himself on before, about opening up lanes for teammates — and this time, Buddy flipped the ball around the double team to Edwards. The SU center hesitated and then blew past Charlie Moore, with no sliding help defense in sight, and slammed one of his seven dunks through the basket.
During a game where Buddy, largely due to the double-teams and limited offensive opportunities, managed just nine points before fouling out, Edwards became a focal point along with Joe Girard III and a main beneficiary of Miami’s approach on defense. He finished with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, while adding seven blocks, eight rebounds and two steals — with the point total, made shots, attempts and blocks all serving as career-high numbers for the junior from Amsterdam, Netherlands. “It’s a sign of what he can do,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said postgame.
But in between those flashes of his continued development while blossoming into the full-time center role he spent the previous two seasons preparing for behind Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe, reminders of needed growth also emerged with Edwards turning the ball over six times as opponents continually provide open looks for the center by focusing attention on the Syracuse guards.
“He’s just got to catch the ball (when Buddy is doubled),” Boeheim said, “and they didn’t really even come to guard him. He just had to put it on the floor and dunk it.”
Edwards had finished with single-digit points in two of Syracuse’s last three games, but he rebounded against the Hurricanes to score his most since pouring in 21 against Arizona State in November’s Battle 4 Atlantis. Backup center Frank Anselem didn’t play a minute off the bench — the first time this season that’s happened — and Edwards played all 38 minutes before fouling out.
His offensive contributions started on the game’s first possession, as Miami’s defense left him wide open on the left block when Girard penetrated toward the elbow and Jimmy Boeheim drew a pair of defenders on the opposite block. Then, less than a minute later, he took a dribble down from the high post and banked in a floater. Teams have doubled Buddy all season, creating four-on-three opportunities and shots for other SU players where they’re “gonna have to convert in those situations.” That happened again on Wednesday against the Hurricanes, and this time, Edwards converted.
But eventually, Miami’s defense started adjusting. “They’re going to swarm after a while,” Edwards said, and that eventually led to the turnovers. When Miami doubled Jimmy off a screen and he tossed the ball to Edwards, Moore rushed over and prevented a clean catch. And with 10 minutes left in the second half, the Hurricanes holding a 58-55 lead, Miami switched off Edwards’ ball screen to prevent any opening created by a double. He still ended up with possession after Buddy drove and lost his handle, but as Edwards pivoted with the ball, Anthony Walker knocked it away from behind.
“After I get maybe a couple of buckets, they’re gonna not just let me move freely in there,” Edwards said.
But his continued dunks kept the Orange in the game offensively, with Boeheim saying that SU did a “really good job” recognizing the double-team and feeding Edwards inside, and he showed an improved aggression reaching the corner at the defensive end — “he did an unbelievable job early,” Boehiem said. His first block came at the 18:30-mark of the first half, when Isaiah Wong dribbled in from the right wing and pulled up for a mid-range jumper but met Edwards’ outstretched hand instead. Four minutes later, when Walker backed in from the right block to the left, Edwards altered his shot, too.
“I was more in a good position this game a lot,” Edwards said. “I was out there quick. I don’t think they expected me to be there quite that quick.”
After Edwards’ dunk gave the Orange a chance at the lead heading into the under-12 media timeout, he stationed himself in the center of the 2-3 zone and pointed as Walker ran the baseline behind him and maneuvered toward the left wing. Given his zone responsibilities, that’d be Edwards’ shot to go out and challenge should Walker receive the ball and elevate — the formula that resulted in some of Edwards’ defensive disruptions from the opening frame.
But this time, the ball never made it to Walker. Kameron McGusty weaved through the SU defense, piercing the center of the zone, en route to the left block. As he rose for a layup, Edwards slid over and thrust his right hand toward the ball before it left McGusty’s hand.
This time, the redirection took the ball away from the basket, away from the blackboard, and toward the green out of bounds line painted behind where Edwards stood. And this time, just to make sure it traveled all the way to that green boundary, Edwards slapped the ball again on its downward trajectory, smacking it out of bounds — and far away from any potential recovery for Miami’s offense — before slapping hands with Cole Swider, turning back toward the painted area and preparing for the out of bounds play.
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