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Deep into the second overtime period, with the score knotted at 101-101, Indiana tried to regain the lead it had traded over and over again with Syracuse. The Hoosiers needed points after the Orange tied the game through four free throws in the previous 30 seconds.
As Indiana moved the ball to the right wing, Joe Girard III dropped down to the wing to force a double team. The Indiana wing was trapped and threw an over-the-head prayer to his point guard, Khristian Lander. But the ball sailed over his head and into the backcourt where Lander had no choice but to grab the ball and take the backcourt violation.
That turnover, among many from IU, helped Syracuse pull away for the victory.
“If we don’t get those turnovers we don’t have a chance,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Some of them lead to baskets, but they also get us the ball back.”
Syracuse (4-3, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) topped Indiana (6-1, 0-0 Big Ten) 112-110 in double overtime as the Orange came up with crucial turnovers to stop Indiana from scoring while they capitalized on the other end with points. The Orange finished with 18 steals — a season-high — and four blocks to make up for a 15-rebound deficit. Those defensive plays helped the Orange turn defense into offense with 33 points scored off turnovers.
“We were more active in the defense and we forced (26) turnovers, which is the difference in the game,” Boeheim said. “Because we got outrebounded by 15 and we were plus 13 in the turnovers.”
The forced turnovers began from the opening tipoff. Boeheim then elected to move away with his trademark 2-3 zone and instead opted for a 1-1-3 zone. By moving one of the guards deeper in the zone, Boeheim said that it helped keep the ball out of the high post. The system worked.
The game began with a 7-0 run by Syracuse fueled by turnovers. First, it was Jesse Edwards who stepped out of the paint to gather an errant Hoosier’s pass for the steal. On the next IU possession, Trayce Jackson-Davis rose up for a layup, but Edwards swatted it away. Edwards finished the game with five steals and three blocks, the most defensive actions of anyone on the Orange.
“Jesse’s been great,” Boeheim said. “He’s just getting better all the time.”
Next, Buddy Boeheim stepped in front of a pass on the right wing to grab another steal. Buddy quickly raced down the court for a layup, which didn’t fall but counted on a goaltending call against IU.
As the turnovers piled up, Syracuse broke off scoring runs that slowly built up a lead. The Orange ended the half on a 12-4 run spurred by Cole Swider’s defense. Indiana tried to pass cross-court to an open shooter on Swider’s side of the zone, but he jumped to tip the ball away and quickly passed to Buddy, who returned the pass to Swider in stride for a powerful dunk.
“It’s hard to rebound out of the zone, so we got to make up for it and force turnovers,” Swider said.
After halftime, the Orange shifted away from the 1-1-3 as Indiana began to find pockets of space to shoot from and crept back up the scoreboard. But the turnover battle came up big toward the end of the game as well. With under five minutes left, Indiana was down seven and chasing the game. But an ambitious pass at halfcourt was intercepted by Girard.
Girard swung the ball to Jimmy Boeheim open on the wing, but with a quick pump fake, Jimmy opened a clear path to the paint for an easy layup. Even with the boost from turnovers, Syracuse allowed Indiana back in the game and into overtime.
In the first overtime period, Syracuse recorded two more steals. Swider also grabbed a rebound that created a turnover that didn’t show up on the stat sheet for the Orange. After Jackson-Davis missed a jumper, the ball bounced toward the right sideline.
Swider and Race Thompson exploded toward the ball, but Swider dove headfirst to beat Thompson to the ball. When the Thompson fell on top of Swider, the referee blew his whistle for a foul to send him to the line.
Still, the game entered a second overtime period. Players began to hunch over with exhaustion with hands on their knees. But somehow, the Orange managed to find the energy to create another turnover in the second overtime and when Lander begrudgingly grabbed the ball in the backcourt to force a foul, Girard flung his arms in the air celebrating as if he’d nailed a 3.
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