At age 78 and in his 47th season of coaching Syracuse, Jim Boeheim doesn’t have time for anything less than brutal honesty.
Asked recently about starting forward Benny Williams, Boeheim was blunt.
“He’s been focused on shooting jump shots, and he’s not a good enough shooter to shoot a lot of jump shots,” Boeheim said. “I don’t know how he’s feeling. Go ask him. I’m sure he’s not happy. Nobody’s happy when you don’t play well.”
Williams will be one of the keys for the Orange (12-6, 5-2) when they visit No. 17 Miami (14-3, 5-2) in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup on Monday night.
Some key trends for Monday’s game favor the Hurricanes, who have a 10-0 home record. Syracuse has a 2-2 road record, and the Orange have lost two straight games to Miami.
However, Syracuse is 9-2 in its past 11 games overall. The Orange had four scorers in double figures on Saturday in a 78-73 win over Notre Dame.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have their own legendary coach — 73-year-old Jim Larranaga, who took Miami to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight last year, the deepest advance in program history.
Miami this season is led by four double-digit scorers: Isaiah Wong (17.2 ppg), Jordan Miller (14.9), Norchad Omier (13.9) and Nijel Pack (11.4).
Wong also leads the Hurricanes in assists (4.0) and steals (1.7). Omier tops the team in rebounds (9.9).
Miami’s fifth starter is Wooga Poplar, who had a six-steal game last week against Georgia Tech. Sixth man Bensley Joseph, considered Miami’s best perimeter defender, actually gets more minutes on average than Poplar.
The Hurricanes are coming off an 83-81 overtime loss at North Carolina State on Saturday.
Wong had a game-high 25 points, shooting 7-for-9 from the floor and 9-for-10 from the foul line. He also made two 3-pointers. Omier had 13 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in a career-high 40 minutes, but it wasn’t enough.
“We had too many turnovers,” Larranaga said. “We had 17 turnovers and only five assists. I would prefer it the opposite.”
The Orange, on a roll of late, have confidence in their top three scorers: Joseph Girard III (16.7 ppg), Judah Mintz (15.6) and Jesse Edwards (13.3).
Edwards also entered the weekend leading the ACC in rebounds (10.6).
Mintz, a four-star recruit, is part of Syracuse’s six-player freshman class. It’s the largest freshman class the Orange have recruited in 30 years, and Mintz is leading Syracuse in assists (4.3) and steals (2.0).
Girard has started 109 games in his Syracuse career and is on pace for a career season in points.
“He’s been able to get his own shot, which I don’t think he has been able to do before this season,” Boeheim said of Girard. “He’s playing really good basketball. You have to give him credit.”
Syracuse’s other starters are Williams (7.4 scoring average) and Chris Bell (7.3).
–Field Level Media