The Basketball Tournament

No. 3 Boeheim’s Army erupts for 40-10 run to skate past Team FOE, advance to Final Four of The Basketball Tournament

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Boeheim's Army exploded for a 40-10 run to advance to its first-ever Final Four in The Basketball Tournament. BA will play in Baltimore Aug. 1.

The comeback from down 25 was gradual, as were the signs of it. It began midway through the second half with a deep James Southerland 3-pointer, which cut the lead to 17. Only Trevor Cooney stood and clapped on the Boeheim’s Army bench.

Another Southerland 3 cut the lead to 10. Now the whole bench was standing. The bevy of Syracuse faithful’s raucous “Let’s go Orange” chants made the Steinberg Wellness Center, which has a maximum capacity of 2,500, ring loud.

“It was a mini Carrier Dome,” Brandon Triche said with a smile after BA’s 72-67 victory on Sunday.

Then Eric Devendorf — who did nearly all of the scoring for Boeheim’s Army in the first 10 minutes of the game — curled in for a layup from the left side to give BA a one-point lead. Team FOE’s bench players, who for most of the game had been laughing and smiling, were stunned. NBA Player and general manager Marcus Morris stood with a blank stare looking across the aisle.

 

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The last two wins for Boeheim’s Army hadn’t been very convincing. A double-overtime victory against GaelNation after blowing a 22-point lead and a close win over Team Fancy that wasn’t decided until the final minute. Shooting only 26.7 percent in the first half made it appear that there’d be no more happy endings for Boeheim’s Army.

But the storybook run continued for the No. 3 seed. After a horrid first half, Boeheim’s Army stormed back in the second half and won its Elite Eight matchup against No. 4 seed Team FOE at the campus of Long Island University-Brooklyn. BA advanced to its first-ever Final Four in The Basketball Tournament and will play Aug. 1.

Southerland took on the bulk of the scoring in the second half. He canned four 3-pointers en route to a game-high 23 points. He had made only one shot in the first half. BA as a team shot just 3-of-15 from deep. But Southerland never thought twice about continuing to pull the trigger.

“It just comes (from) having nothing to lose,” Southerland said. “We just needed somebody to come get the squad and today it was me.”

“I know I was telling with John (Gillon),” Triche said jokingly, “We want you to shoot … for one, no one else is making shots. So if you miss you’re just going to be part of the group.”

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Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

What plagued Boeheim’s Army were careless mistakes turning into easy scores for Team FOE. A blown alley-oop attempt turned into a wide open 3-pointer when BA didn’t recover. Stops and rebounds were rendered useless because of bad outlet passes that resulted in turnovers. Devendrof tried to walk up the ball past one defender to end the half and promptly got the ball stolen as Team FOE scored an easy layup. FOE went to the locker room up 16.

The start of the second half looked much like the first. Boeheim’s Army had two assists total midway through the second period, as isolation-heavy sets resulted in missed shots and easy transition opportunities for FOE.

When the rally started, it wasn’t just because of Southerland’s hot shooting. Boeheim’s Army pressed. Gillon said that a lot of the FOE players were talking trash to the BA bench, using hand motions to show how they were “dissecting the zone.”

“You gotta change up the pace of the game, they were comfortable coming down on our 2-3,” Gilon said. “They weren’t used to that pressure, nor did they expect it.”

Gillon, Southerland and Triche each credited the raucous crowd for rattling their opponent and forcing a few turnovers. Regardless of whether it was the press or the noise, FOE cracked.

After the game, players harped on the joke that’s followed Syracuse basketball for years. “Cardiac Cuse,” Gillon said with a smile during the press conference. They tried to remember other major comebacks they had while they played at SU. Orange head coach Jim Boeheim fired off a tweet saying that this was one of the best Orange comebacks he’d ever seen.

While the comeback felt familiar, the result wasn’t. Because for the first time, Boeheim’s Army has advanced to the Final Four of The Basketball Tournament, two wins away from $2 million.

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