INDIANAPOLIS — At halftime of the Syracuse-West Virginia game Sunday, one of Orange coach Jim Boeheim’s best players ever approached Boeheim’s youngest son.
Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara had a simple message for junior guard Buddy Boeheim: Keep shooting. Even if you miss 200 shots.
Boeheim followed through, scoring 22 of his game-high 25 points in the second half as No. 11 seed Syracuse held off No. 3 seed West Virginia 75-72 in the second round of the NCCA tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Orange advance to the Sweet 16, their 20th under Jim Boeheim. Buddy Boeheim continued his brilliant postseason — he’s averaging 28.3 points with 24 3-pointers in two ACC tournament games and two NCCA tournament games — as Syracuse advanced to its third Sweet 16 as a double-digit seed since 2016.
According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, Buddy Boeheim’s 55 points in the first two NCCA tournament games mark the third-most in team history, trailing Gary Clark (60 in 1957) and McNamara (56 in 2004).
“There’s no one better than G-Mac,” Buddy Boeheim said. “He’ll always be the best shooter who came to Syracuse. Just being able to work with him every day is a dream come true for me. Just being around him every day, taking knowledge from him. … ‘You’re the best shooter on the planet’ is what he usually tells me, and I say, ‘Yeah.’ He knows how to motivate me. He knows I need confidence sometimes. He’s like a big brother to me, and something I’ll cherish forever.”
Boeheim opened the game with a 3-pointer but then missed his other five shots in the first half. He hit two 3-pointers early in the second half as Syracuse stretched its lead to 46-35. Boeheim said his mindset toward missing shots has improved from earlier in the year.
“The ball’s finding him when he’s open,” Jim Boeheim said. “He had some really good looks today. I’m surprised, he was 6-for-13 [from 3-point range], I’m surprised he wasn’t 10-for-13, really, the way he’s been shooting it. I know he was disappointed in himself at halftime, but he showed what he’s made of.”
Buddy Boeheim’s 3-pointer and Quincy Guerrier’s jam help push Syracuse past West Virginia.
Jim Boeheim praised his son’s journey, from a low-rated recruit to a walk-on for the Orange. Boeheim noted that while he’s had plenty of hardworking players in 45 seasons at Syracuse, “he works harder than anybody that I’ve ever coached, and it’s not close.”
The Sweet 16 has taken on added significance for Jim Boeheim, who said he often didn’t celebrate the milestone earlier in his career. Syracuse in 2018 was among the last four at-large teams and had to beat Arizona State in the First Four before upsetting TCU and then Michigan State. In 2016, the 10th-seed Orange went .500 in ACC play but beat Dayton, Middle Tennessee, Gonzaga and Virginia before falling to North Carolina in the Final Four.
“We’d like to be good in the regular season and the tournament,” Jim Boeheim said, “but when you’re not as good as you’d like to be in the regular season, let’s play well in the tournament, and that’s what these guys have done.”
Buddy Boeheim defended his father’s track record, saying that after a loss last month to Georgia Tech, he “saw a lot of stuff on Twitter, talking about him, just crazy stuff.”
“Do you know how many people would dream about going to two Sweet 16s, two Final Fours and an Elite Eight in 10 years? I think that’s pretty good,” Buddy Boeheim said “He’s never had a losing season, back in the Sweet 16. He’s one of the best coaches in all of sports, there’s no doubt about it.
“It’s no better feeling than helping bring him to another Sweet 16.”
While Buddy Boeheim noticed the social media criticism, his 76-year-old father certainly did not.
“I don’t hear it because it’s from people that are inconsequential,” Jim Boeheim said. “They don’t matter. Not one sentence on the internet matters. Not one. … If you’re coaching at Syracuse for 45 years, everybody has an opinion about what we should do or shouldn’t do, or that we should be better or not. Maybe the next coach will be better. That’s great. I’ll be happy to see that. But I do not worry about what anyone says in Syracuse.”