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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With Syracuse trailing during much of the first half, Buddy Boeheim tried again and again to provide a scoring punch. But every time Syracuse’s leading scorer would get the ball, two Florida State defenders would converge on him to force a turnover or contested shot.
Eventually, Buddy tried to attack the double-team. Gathering the ball on the right wing, the rest of Syracuse’s offense cleared out to the left to give Buddy an isolation opportunity. Driving at his man Matthew Cleveland, it looked like Buddy might’ve found some space, except Harrison Prieto shuffled over to cut off the drive opportunity. So Buddy was forced to settle for a pull-up jumper but was emphatically rejected by Cleveland.
Buddy scored just six points in Syracuse (5-3, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) 63-60 win over Florida State (5-3, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday. His six points were the lowest point total the senior has scored since scoring two points last year on Dec. 16 against Northeastern. But in spite of the Orange’s best player being limited to just six points, they found a way to take advantage of the open spaces and pull off the comeback win against the Seminoles.
“That’s what the coaches were telling me all week: they’re probably going to not leave me and double me when I drive,” Buddy said. “So I had to make that adjustment and be more than just a scorer, be a playmaker.”
Going into halftime, Syracuse struggled to get anything going on offense. The team as a whole shot 8-for-35, a new season-low in a half. Buddy himself was just 1-for-5 from the field. But at the half, the Seminoles were up just eight, giving Syracuse a chance to stay in the game.
Out of halftime, FSU continued to double-team Buddy, but he started to find ways to help the offense without scoring. His backcourt teammate Joe Girard III was one of the beneficiaries of the increased defensive attention on Buddy.
Girard scored the first points of the second half for Syracuse. With two defenders focused on Buddy on the wing, Girard was alone at the top of the arc and drained a 3. His shot would kick-start a 25-10 run that not only reduced the deficit but gave the Orange the lead they eventually used to win.
Soon the offense began spreading the ball to try and find the open man Buddy was surrounded by. He explained that whenever he was double-teamed, the key was to quickly identify where the help defender came from and exploit that opening.
“If I’m getting face-guarded, we have an advantage on the offensive end, and guys can operate,” Buddy said. “Knowing when I drive I’m going to have a double-team on me and just looking for someone that’s open — that’s all they were telling me.”
If the help defender came from the post, Buddy would try to get the ball down low to Jimmy Boeheim or Jesse Edwards. Jimmy said most teams already play out on Syracuse’s shooters, which gives the post players more space. But today, when a defender would push out on Buddy, it gave them even greater mismatches that Jimmy said they emphasized more in the second half.
“Even when he’s not scoring, he’s helping us a ton on offense,” Jimmy said. “ It doesn’t show on the box score necessarily, but he helped us a lot.”
Other times the ball might have gone into the post, but then it would pop back out to the wing to an open SU shooter. In one instance, Edwards received the ball in the post before passing across the court to Cole Swider, who was able to knock down the 3.
All season, head coach Jim Boeheim has mentioned how Syracuse needs to get Swider going to be successful, and today the forward had a season-high 13 3-point attempts. Although Swider only made four of those 3s, he said he usually wouldn’t get so many open looks.
Defenses usually play out on Syracuse’s shooters, but today with the increased attention on Buddy, he had more room to take open 3s. Swider explained that in the future, Syracuse just needs to be more clinical.
So while the Orange did manage to grind out the win today, no player shot better than 38%, except for Edwards, who didn’t take any 3s. The shooting woes were a product of a poor first half, but one that gave Florida State a chance to win the game even in the final seconds of the game. Going forward, the Orange will expect Buddy to be double-teamed, but they might have found a formula to stop it.
“It’s just the evolution of our team, and they’re not going to be able to do that to Buddy for long once we start making some shots we usually make,” Swider said.
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