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After a blistering start from 3-point range by Syracuse, Brown took the same approach to try and get back into the game. The Bears would work the ball inside and then back out to an open shooter. So when Tamenang Choh received the ball inside, he turned around to pass, but this time, Joe Girard III stretched his hand into the path of the ball for a steal. The guard blazed down the other end of the court, hit his defender with a neat Eurostep and finished with a reverse layup.
“I saw that there were some opportunities when they were looking for the high post,” Girard said. “Trying to almost bait them into throwing and then going quick twitch to try and get the ball.”
Girard finished his night with 15 points, seven assists and a season-high five steals as Syracuse (6-5, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) breezed past Brown (8-6) on Monday night. On a night where his backcourt partner, Buddy Boeheim scored 28, Girard helped Syracuse with his steals and assists.
“He was in the top 10 in the league last year in steals. He sees where they are trying to go,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s been very consistent game in game out.”
With his first steal of the night, Girard brought the ball up in transition and passed to Buddy, who swung it to Cole Swider for 3. Then he grabbed the steal that led to the Eurostep layup. Girard would snatch another before eventually sneaking in his fourth steal of the first half. Each time, Girard secured a steal and quickly moved the team up in transition. On the fourth steal, he ran up the right side of the court and lasered a pass to Jimmy Boeheim, who drove and dropped a pass to Jesse Edwards for the dunk.
Throughout the night, Girard’s steals proved to be an offensive spark for the Orange as they cruised to a big victory over Brown.
“It’s just about knowing their plays. Our coaches do a good job of giving up the scouting report and telling us where they’re going to be and what they’re going to do,” Girard said. “So just listening to that and then playing off instinct.”
His last steal of the night came in the second half, to take Girard up to five, one shy of a career-high he set against Northeastern last year.
But it wasn’t just on defense that Girard helped Syracuse score points — he also dished out seven helpers. That’s two straight games now with seven assists for Girard. He kicked off the night assisting on the first three made baskets for SU.
First, it was finding Jimmy open on the right wing for 3. Next, Girard helped kick off Buddy’s 28-point night with an open 3 from the exact same spot. Then Girard tried to get a deep strike for himself, but after his pump fake didn’t work on his defender, he just looked left and found Jimmy for another open 3. After three straight assists, Girard called his own number and immediately pulled up and drained a 3 of his own.
“He gets the ball to people,” Boeheim said. “He can score, which is why he gets assists. They are worried about him scoring. He’s been very consistent all year.”
Girard squeezed out a fourth assist in the first half when he found Swider open in the corner for 3. By halftime, Girard’s four assists created 12 points, and his four steals resulted in seven more points for SU. Those 19 points were half of Syracuse’s first-half total of 38. Along with his five first-half points, Girard helped steer a Syracuse offense that has had its rough patches in recent games.
In the second half, Girard began to feed the low post more as Brown began to push up on Syracuse’s shooters, who’d shot 58.3% from beyond the arc in the first half. Girard fed Edwards down low for a quick jumper before he slowly dribbled up the court on the next possession. When one of Brown’s post players came out to guard him, Girard spotted the mismatch. He deftly bounced the ball down to Jimmy, who backed into his man and scored with a hook shot.
But Girard’s last assist of the night was his most highlight-worthy. Syracuse had been exploiting Brown with the pick and roll all night, and this time was no different. Edwards came all the way up to the 3-point line to set a screen for Girard. As Girard came around the screen, he stopped and picked up his dribble, allowing Brown to double team him. Edwards darted wide open to the basket, but Girard’s eyes were fixated on Jimmy on the wing. But Girard didn’t pass to Jimmy. Instead, he lobbed a no-look pass over his two defenders to Edwards for an emphatic dunk.
“Jesse, he’s a big presence down there, so sometimes you honestly just have to throw it up, let him catch it (and) come down with it,” Girard said.
Soon after, Girard’s night would come to an end as Boeheim elected to give some of his starters a rest given the large lead. In just 28 minutes, Girard provided a spark for the Syracuse offense as the Orange posted their second-highest regulation point total of the season. After the game, Girard credited his teammates for his success.
“I just got a lot of teammates around me who can put the ball in the basket,” Girard said. “As a point guard, you love playing with those kinds of guys.”
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