Heading into the 2021-22 college basketball season, one of the biggest question marks on Syracuse’s roster was at forward. On Wednesday night, Cole Swider put those concerns to rest.
The senior transfer from Villanova dropped 21 points on 80% shooting, leading Syracuse to a dominant 79-60 win over Pace at the Dome.
"Cole was good tonight," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "He made two or three great plays off the dribble, and he obviously can shoot the basketball. Players know that."
It was a sluggish start for the Orange, who were tied after the first five minutes of play. However, the team began to distance themselves from Pace late in the first half, buoyed by a combined 20 points from Swider and Buddy Boeheim in the game’s opening frame.
The game wasn’t without its drama for ‘Cuse. In the opening minutes of the second half, Boeheim suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury. Luckily for the Orange, he returned to the bench with a smile on his face after a brief visit to the locker room. The star junior had 9 points on the night, all of which were scored on three-pointers, and did not return to the game after his minor injury.
With just two freshmen on the roster and plenty of returning players, head coach Jim Boeheim has one of the most experienced teams in the ACC at his disposal. Where things looked different from last year was down low, where Cornell transfer Jimmy Boeheim and Swider were immediately placed in the starting lineup. While the sharp-shooting Swider was the main attraction, hitting 70% of his three-point attempts, the eldest Boeheim son was fantastic in his own right, scoring 19 points to go with 7 rebounds.
In a move that likely surprised some Syracuse fans, freshman phenom Benny Williams came off the bench. The lanky five-star prospect impacted the game in numerous areas despite a modest total of 7 points, chipping in with 3 assists and a team-leading 9 rebounds.
"We're fortunate he's got veterans to play with out there," Jim Boeheim said. "He's a creative player that can make passes. He's going to be really good, but it's going to take time."
At center, graduate student Bourama Sidibe was out of tonight’s game with a lower body injury, leaving plenty of minutes for junior Jesse Edwards and freshman Frank Anselem. Edwards took no time to make an impact, scoring Syracuse’s opening basket with an impressive and-one layup. On the night, the seven-footer had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocks in a stellar all-around showing.
For Pace, this was the Division II program’s first game since 2020, as all winter sports in the Northeast 10 Conference were cancelled last season due to Covid-19. Guards Brandon Jacobs and Austin Gilbertson, the team’s second and third leading scorers from two years ago, scored a meager 15 points Wednesday night, likely impacted by Syracuse’s stout 2-3 zone.
"I think our defense was good," Jim Boeheim said. "They made some long threes...They did a lot. Everything that will help us be a better team."
Syracuse will need to improve from the free-throw line, where they shot just 8-21 (38%). Their next opportunity to do so will come November 9th against Lafayette at home.