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In the first half against Cornell, Buddy Boeheim tossed a routine pass to Joe Girard III to his right. But as the ball flew toward Girard, the point guard took his eyes off the pass for a brief moment and the ball hit his fingertips, sailing out of bounds before he could corral it.
Moments later, Girard misplayed an inbound pass and was subbed out for Symir Torrence. Girard’s mistakes were likely among what head coach Jim Boeheim later referenced as “about six unforced errors, turnover-wise, that we can’t have.” Boeheim said on Zoom after the game that Girard was “out of it a little bit.”
The second Girard miscue turned into a made 3-pointer by Cornell’s Keller Boothby on the other end, helping the Big Red slice SU’s 16-point first-half lead into just a seven-point one.
Wednesday night in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse made what should’ve been a comfortable victory over Cornell more complicated than it needed to be with a plethora of turnovers. The Orange (7-5, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) still won by double-digits, topping Cornell (8-3, 0-0 Ivy League), 80-68. But turnovers helped dissolve SU’s sizable first half lead, and another second-half one. Syracuse negated solid first-half defensive play by making numerous mental errors. It tied its season-high with 16 turnovers, 11 of which came in the first half.
Girard wasn’t the only player with turnover trouble against the Big Red either. Jesse Edwards had three, and Torrence, Buddy and Benny Williams had two apiece.
“They pressured, and we didn’t handle it very well,” Boeheim said. “They pressured Joe and Sy(mir), and they just made mistakes you can’t make in college.”
The Cornell game wasn’t the first time Girard’s had turnover trouble this season. Through 12 games in 2021-22, the starting point guard has had five games where he posted as many turnovers as he had assists — in two of those, he had more turnovers than assists. Those included a six-turnover game against VCU, and a five-turnover one against Indiana.
At halftime against Cornell, Boeheim told Matt Park that “we played good defense, and we let them back in it. We made some terrible turnovers that we shouldn’t make.”
Cornell started to apply more pressure as the game wore on, and Syracuse seemed a bit rattled. Boeheim said the pressure got to Girard more than it should’ve.
The point guard nearly had his pocket picked when he was dribbling at midcourt with six minutes left and two defenders enclosed him, but he was bailed out by a foul. Torrence faced similar pressure and nearly caved as well.
In another instance, Torrence tried to find Williams near the top of the arc in the second half, but a defender jumped into the lane and tipped the ball. Cornell turned that into a quick layup on the other end, and then Torrence turned it over once more when he had the ball in his own half.
Luckily for Syracuse, Cornell didn’t take care of the ball either. The Big Red had 22 turnovers, their most since a 23-turnover game on Dec. 2, 2017 against Northeastern. The Orange converted those into 27 points. Boeheim said Syracuse did a good job forcing Cornell into turnovers, jumping into passing lanes on numerous occasions. At times, SU negated its own turnovers and mental errors by responding and turning Cornell over.
Jimmy Boeheim said his dad spoke to the team about “refocusing” at halftime. The turnovers caused by unforced mistakes were certainly a point of emphasis, Jimmy said.
But even after the break, Syracuse’s first second-half bucket featured a slightly misplaced pass toward Buddy. The shooting guard stretched across the baseline and used an acrobatic effort to save what seemed like an errant pass. In one fluid motion, Buddy fired toward Edwards in the paint, and Edwards slammed down a dunk.
After that, the Orange protected the ball for the first 10 minutes of the second half, but the issues resurfaced with a spurt of turnovers that started with about nine minutes left. Torrence lost the ball twice in 15 seconds, and then a Girard turnover in the last 2:30 cracked the door open for Cornell to claw back into it by cutting SU’s lead to single-digits.
“We got to take care of the ball better,” Jimmy said. “A lot of it is mental, but just taking care of the ball, making the right decisions.”
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