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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Down 12 with just over nine minutes remaining in the second half, Boston College tried feeding it to James Karnik in the paint — a place where the Eagles had found success all game. But when Karnik tried to score, he ran into a combination of Frank Anselem and Cole Swider, leading to a blocked shot.
After the block, Swider grabbed the loose ball and passed it out to Joe Girard III. Girard dribbled up the right side of the court before passing to the trailing Swider. Swider caught the ball at the logo and took one step forward before immediately draining the deep 3. The Eagles — already aware of their large deficit despite a quarter of the game remaining — rolled the ball on the inbounds to save clock in hopes of a comeback.
But the comeback didn’t gather enough steam as Syracuse (13-11, 7-6 Atlantic Coast) notched a 73-64 win over Boston College (9-13, 4-8). Swider shone, scoring 21 points along with eight rebounds and posting two steals, all team-highs, and his big night helped Syracuse do something it hasn’t done in two years — win four games in a row.
“We had good ball movement, got Cole in good positions and Buddy had a good stretch in the first half to kinda separate us,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Then we just kind of hung on. It was a game you’re never comfortable with.”
The game started out with sloppy offensive play from both sides as they combined to shoot 7-for-28 over the opening nine minutes. But after the halfway point of the first half, Syracuse improved, finding a foothold in the game.
Swider kicked it off with a wing-3 in transition off an assist from Symir Torrence. Then he made a backdoor cut to get open in the corner to hit another 3. Finally, Buddy answered a BC alley-oop by hitting a 3 from the top of the arc before later connecting on another long-range shot with Makai Ashton-Langford in his face.
Buddy and Swider helped the Orange build a 10-point lead heading into halftime while the Eagles continued to struggle. It took BC 17 minutes to score its first and only 3-pointer of the opening half, and it finished 1-for-15 from beyond the arc. But the Eagles took advantage of Jesse Edwards’ foul trouble by deploying 7-foot center Quinten Post down low to grab offensive rebounds and score second-chance points.
We need to shoot at a high level from the 3-point line, especially if Jesse’s not getting anything.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim
After Buddy powered the offense in the first half, it was Swider’s turn to become the key contributor in the second half. On one play where Girard drove down the left side of the court, he momentarily lost his dribble and had it knocked out of his hands. Tiptoeing along the sideline to save the ball, Girard threw it to Swider at the top of the arc, who isolated his man before taking a couple of dribbles and knocking down a mid-range jumper.
In attendance were Swider’s friends and family as well as his former high school coach Michael Hart, who Swider starred under at St Andrew’s before heading to Villanova. Swider grew up in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, just over an hour from Boston.
“Early on in the year I was rushed to some shots and not as comfortable so I think it’s all part of the process,” Swider said. “I haven’t played this free in three years. So I came from a program where I was getting 18 minutes a game. Now I’m playing 35-40 minutes a game so I think it’s just getting back adjusted to playing like I’m playing for coach Hart again.”
Swider’s 3 in transition put Syracuse up 15, strengthening a lead that the Eagles came close to cutting, but eventually, was simply too much to overcome. Wednesday was Swider’s fourth consecutive game shooting over 50% from the floor and over 60% from 3. His increased shooting has coincided with Syracuse’s most important — and longest — winning streak of the season.
On a night where Jesse Edwards — after two straight games with 19 points — scored a season-low zero points due to foul trouble, Swider’s play helped boost Syracuse to a key victory.
“3s are important to us, there’s no question,” Boeheim said. “We need to shoot at a high level from the 3-point line, especially if Jesse’s not getting anything.”
Earlier in the season, Boston College’s 40 points in the paint might have seen the Orange drop another game. But when the shooters are on, like Swider was tonight, Syracuse can shoot its way to victories — as it has over the last four games that have coincided with a gradual trickle toward March and a potential NCAA Tournament bid.
“I think these last four games we’ve come together as a team and I’m excited for where we’re headed,” Swider said. “Obviously I don’t think we played great tonight but to get an ACC win is not easy to come by. So it was a good win for us.”
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