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Joe Girard III didn’t need a confidence boost, but a steal-and-score midday through the first half revealed a simple fact — he could easily break through Georgia Tech’s defense. By this point, the Orange’s offense was inefficient, shooting 38% from the field before the Under-12 timeout. The Orange needed a spark still down by five, so Girard went on a tear.
Ja’von Franklin turned the ball over, and Girard sprinted to the opposite end, and side, of the court, nailing a quick transition 3 to give SU its first lead of the afternoon. Maliq Brown then stole the ball, waiting for Girard to get back on offense from his spot in the zone.
Girard reached the left wing and used a screen from Mounir Hima to drill the open 3, slowing down the pace on SU’s next possession by backing down Deivon Smith and sinking a fadeaway. Brown stole the ball again after scoring on his own with a putback dunk, handing it off to Girard.
This time, Girard raised the ball up from the right wing, sending a defender flying to try and block the shot. He didn’t shoot, taking a sidestep and a dribble prior to knocking down fourth 3-pointer.
“In the years past, (Syracuse) has had other guys and now Girard has to be the guy,” Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said. “To his credit, he’s producing and making big time shots.”
Girard led Syracuse to a 17-0 run, erasing Georgia Tech’s advantage, which had been at as much as 11 in the first half. He finished with 28 points in the game, adding 10 in the second half in Syracuse’s 80-63 win over Georgia Tech. Jim Boeheim joked postgame that Girard must have watched some Buddy Boeheim highlights with some of the plays he made backing into the post on his own. Or that maybe he thinks he’s 6-foot-6.
Syracuse continued to score off the Yellow Jackets turnovers as well, scoring 24 points off them. Brown also had another strong night following a two-point performance against the Hurricanes, recording 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
“(Girard) was the difference of the game just with the shots that he made and the 16 turnovers,” Pastner said.
The Yellow Jackets flew off to a 10-3 run in the first half, powered by two 3-pointers and a dunk from Smith after a turnover from Chris Bell. The Orange fought back, but they struggled from the field while GT shot 71% by the Under-12 timeout. Boeheim brought out a full-court press after the break, which GT easily tore through on its first attempt after Jesse Edwards abandoned his spot at the back of the set.
But the second time SU ran the full-court press, it got the job done. The Yellow Jackets advanced past half-court, getting the ball to Rodney Howard at the left block. Girard came from behind and poked the ball out of Howard’s grasp, splitting two GT players to finish off the coast-to-coast mission. Boeheim said the Orange didn’t get many steals out of the press, but the Yellow Jackets took some 3-pointers in transition which were misfired.
“We’ve been good against the press this year, but I don’t know why today we were turning the ball over,” Dallan Coleman said. “They sped us up.”
Girard then took over, helped by Brown and the rest of Syracuse’s offense while Judah Mintz sat on the bench. Mintz checked back in, taking out Symir Torrence, with less than five minutes left in the opening period after the Yellow Jackets scored five straight points. He walked into a midrange jumper, which fell in. Mintz later took two trips to the line, going 3-for-4.
“Joe had a huge first half,” Boeheim said. “I thought when Judah came in he made some great reads and passes.”
Mintz carried on attacking the basket in transition in the second half, wasting no time after Coleman knocked down his fourth 3-pointer. Mintz took the inbound pass, dashed for downcourt and finished on the left side while most of GT was still falling back on defense.
Edwards got going a little bit too, reestablishing his connection with Girard on the pick-and-roll with a dunk seven minutes into the period. He had a few blocks in the second half too, his second landing in his lap before Syracuse launched itself in transition.
Girard took control, going to the right wing where two defenders converged atop him. He thought about shooting, but opted to pass over both. The ball hung in the air while Brown spun away from his defender, twisting in midair and he softly directed Girard’s offering off the glass and into the basket.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t stay far behind though with Kyle Sturdivant making a few big plays at the midway point of the period. He drove into the lane, pulling Edwards away from his spot in the zone and paving a path for Smith to make an open backdoor cut. Smith reciprocated, and Sturdivant bounced the ball to him for the easy layup.
Smith paid back Sturdivant for the open look, handing the ball to him in transition at the top of the key. Sturdivant rose up and nailed from beyond the arc, bringing the Yellow Jackets within six.
But Girard still found success by driving on Smith, stopping on a dime and lofting the ball in from five feet away. Mintz then took control of the offense, lobbing it to Edwards on the next possession.
Mintz continued to succeed as facilitator, driving down the left side of the basket and somehow wrapping the ball around two defenders and into Brown’s hands while he fell out of bounds. Seventy seconds later, Edwards collected the ball in the middle of the paint following a missed 3-pointer from Smith.
Edwards passed to Mintz, who held the ball behind the half-court line and waited for the rest of the offense to get set. Brown saw a gap though, sprinting past the entirety of the Yellow Jackets defense and signaling for the ball on the right side of the basket. Without taking a step, Mintz flicked the ball back into Brown’s hands for the slam.
Brown scored once more after poking the ball out of Miles Kelly’s possession and into the hands of Girard. Girard drove down with Brown next to him, dishing it off once he reached the free-throw line. Brown caught the ball and immediately suspended himself in midair, falling backwards as he dropped the ball in with his left hand. Two minutes later, Girard put the game away, draining a 3-pointer from GT’s logo before dropping in his final basket of the game off the glass.
“We knew he could score the ball … we knew it was going to be a tough task defensively today,” Kelly said about guarding Girard. “We just tried to do our best on him.”
Published on January 21, 2023 at 2:11 pm