Joe Girard III had ups and downs in his sophomore year, but he was the point guard SU needed against WVU on Sunday.
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The resurgence of Joe Girard III continued when Syracuse’s hottest shooter went cold when he missed five of his first six shots against West Virginia when the Orange needed someone – anyone – to emerge and ignite their offense. It went on when a Marek Dolezaj screen left Girard just enough room to rotate and remove a 3-pointer from the March Madness logo as Girard laughed and slapped his teammates on the hands on the way back to the court.
Girard’s third 3-pointer against the climbers gave Syracuse the biggest lead of the game with 24:10 in the middle of the first half. Sitting back in his seat on the left side of the 2-3 zone, forcing a theft inside, then slid the ball into the transition, feeding Buddy Boeheim for a third shot that ricocheted off the edge.This was the time SU head coach Jim Boeheim sent Kadary Richmond to the goalscorer’s table for most of the regular season. Girard was eliminated from Syracuse’s first 15 games before 10:30 a.m. after the calendar was flipped to 2021. In SU’s four postseason games, however, Richmond only came on after the nine-minute mark in three of them. He didn’t exceed 17 minutes of playtime in any of them, even though he exceeded that number in nine of the previous 12.
And during that time span Girard served as a spark for a crime that has at times become one-dimensional. He drew on Buddy’s historic scoring pace to lead a run to the Sweet 16 cemented by SUs (18-9, 9-7 Atlantic Coast) 75-72 win over West Virginia (19-10, 11-6 Big 12) on Sunday evening. All 12 of his points came in the first half, as did 10 of his 11 two nights ago. After the break, he only tried two shots. But that bought Buddy enough time to find a rhythm, and Girard rounded off his performance with six rebounds for the third straight time and seven assists for the second straight time – the first and second time he’d been in those numbers in his career Syracuse produced. respectively.
« Joe has been up and down a lot this year, » said Boeheim. “I mean, he was the key to the first half tonight. It was really good. «
Most of Girard’s regular season was marked by inconsistencies: His eleven sales in the first three games. His 3-on-21 clip with 3 pointers in three of four games at the start of the season in the the intervening 6v12 game against Rider looked more like an outlier, his field goal percentage dropping as the requests to give Richmond longer minutes grew louder.
But Boeheim stayed on his second point guard, who started the last 30 games as a freshman and flashed the long-term potential with a knack for converting open and difficult 3-point games. « He just doesn’t quite have his rhythm, » Boeheim said after SU Niagara in his second game of the season.
Joe Girard finished the Syracuse win with 12 points and seven assists. Courtesy of Jack Dempsey | NCAA Photos
This season, Richmond played a strong role from the bank with strong Defense and an offensive downhill style, even if his 3-point shooting was successful at a significantly slower speed than Girard’s. Although Girard still exceeded 20 minutes per game on the court, he was not the primary point guard at times. After Syracuse’s second break, he still didn’t take double-digit points in 12 games.
This was mainly because Girard got COVID-19 after the Buffalo game on December 19. He didn’t exercise for 10 days, lost taste and smell, and tried to stay in shape by doing pushups and situps while in solution. Girard needed time to regain his strength, Boeheim said on Jan. 19, and 23 points in the 8v15 shootout against Miami that night reflected a move toward normalcy – the best he has done all year over.
« It’s definitely a fight and something everyone needs to be prepared for, » said Girard after beating the Hurricanes.
Over the next six weeks he gradually got his role worked out again. Nineteen points against Clemson. Sixteen against Boston College. The ACC tournament came and he scored 14 points in 4v12 shooting against NC State before battling Virginia with just three the next day. Girard lined up the shots and eased games for the first 20 minutes of Orange’s first NCAA tournament game to reflect that return even more. Long errors by SDSU 3-pointers enabled him to make a contribution to the rebound as well.
Kadary Richmond only got into the game after 8:47 – the third time in the last 4 games in which he was only after 9 minutes or came on later.
Against West Virginia, Girard connected with his first 3-pointer after Alan Griffin drove and initiated a catch-and-shoot. A few possessions later, he beat Miles McBride through, giving Quincy Guerrier a pass for a 3. He scored or assisted on five out of six SU holdings as the Orange built an early 14-point lead that eventually ended in the second Half evaporated.
« Joe really was the only one who hit hard, » said Buddy of the first half.
After Sean McNeil hit a deep 3-pointer in the first half two minutes from time , Girard trickled up the plaza toward West Virginias Bank. He crossed the ball four times, rebounded with his right hand, and raised – from a step to the right of the March Madness logo, the area he’d preferred to shoot earlier in the season.
The ball sank through the basket, and Girard turned back on the square with one hand still raised. Then the same right hand fell towards his mouth, put a finger over his pursed lips and pointed to the bench in Syracuse, to the crowd, to anyone who looked to see that he had found his rhythm again after not having it for so long. Rebounds and assists sprayed in and Girard began to resemble the point guard SU needed.
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