Joe Girard III ends shooting slump with 17 points against Boston College

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Joe Girard III pulled up from about five feet behind the 3-point line and fired. Syracuse led by more than 30 points in the second half against Boston College, and Girard had made 5-of-6 from 3 already.

His shot airballed and bounced out of bounds. Girard smiled. He’d done his job already. The challenge from his head coach, answered. The calls for him to be benched from some in local media, silenced.

The poor shot selection and hands-on-knees reaction from Girard that doomed the Orange on Tuesday night was in the rearview now, at least for one afternoon in Chestnut Hill.

Girard’s first four games saw him hit new lows in offensive efficiency. His defense was questioned by Jim Boeheim postgame on Tuesday after the Orange’s 10-point loss to No. 21 Rutgers. Kadary Richmond usurped him as the team’s point guard on Tuesday while Rutgers’ ball pressure took Girard out of his offensive rhythm.

On Saturday, Girard looked more like his freshman self, darting around the court and dishing out assists to open 3-point shooters.

When Boston College’s defense left him alone, he fired. And he barely missed. When they pressured him, he drove by them and found teammates. Girard finished with 17 points on eight shots, his most efficient showing of the season. The sophomore guard also tallied five rebounds and five assists as Syracuse (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) steamrolled to its first ACC win against Boston College (1-5, 0-1 ACC), 101-63 on Saturday afternoon at Conte Forum. It is the largest SU margin of victory since joining the ACC in 2014. Girard’s best all-around performance of the season reaffirmed his role in the starting lineup.

“I know Joe would get out of this slump,” junior guard Buddy Boeheim said. “He’s a baller.”

Girard said after poor games against Bryant and Niagara to open the season that he received messages of support from family and friends back in his hometown of Glens Falls. He responded with an excellent shooting night against Rider. That was supposed to be the end of his slump. It wasn’t.

After another bad night against Rutgers when Girard’s questionable shot selection and inefficient shooting cost them down the final stretch run, he heard from them again.

“It was pretty much the same thing again,” Girard said.

Boeheim said he never considered benching the sophomore guard, and fired back at those who suggested otherwise in the lead-up to the win. Even though Richmond has impressed in his limited minutes, the starting and main point guard role still belongs to Girard.

“Let’s just stick with the guys we know what they can do that have already proven themselves,” Boeheim said. “If they really struggle for a long period of time, there will be some adjustments made. But you don’t make adjustments after one game.”

With Buddy back in the lineup to anchor the back court and take some attention away from him, Girard was more active defensively. Girard stepped into the lane to disrupt a drive by a Boston College guard, deflecting the ball which ended up in a steal for Alan Griffin.

The Orange’s offense was most effective in the pick-and-roll last season, and on Saturday, they used screens to force Boston College into switches and confuse them. Syracuse had dozens of wide open looks both from beyond the arc and in the paint because the Eagles mixed up switches and missed assignments.

The result was Girard feeding Quincy Guerrier underneath — the sophomore forward finished 5-of-7 for 14 points — or looking to Griffin, who tallied 22 points on 12 shots. Boeheim said postgame that the Orange’s offense doesn’t need Girard shooting to be effective, if he’s making the right decisions with the ball.

Unlike Girard’s two long 3 attempts against Rutgers that helped spurn the Scarlet Knights’ 17-4 run, Girard spurned runs for the Orange by piling on 48 first half points.

“It really helps Joe to have Buddy with him,” Boeheim said. “They don’t leave (Buddy), it leaves gaps. So I think it was good to get those two guys back together.”

When Girard is making shots, Boeheim said he has the green light to keep shooting, if they are good shots. Against Bryant, Girard kept shooting and hit two critical baskets to secure the win. Against Rutgers, those shots came up well short. Girard said Boeheim wants his team to find the guys making shots that day and get them open looks. On Saturday, everyone was making. Syracuse set a program record with 16 made 3-pointers.

Buddy made his first two shots of the game and helped open up the Orange’s offense. Boeheim said those shots gave them a lift on Saturday. But Girard’s improved efficiency could be the lift the Orange need as tougher and more physical opponents lie ahead on the schedule.

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