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Syracuse starts ACC Tournament against a familiar foe

Judah Mintz (3) tunnels his way towards the basket in SU’s 72-63 win over Wake Forest. The freshman was one of three players to score in double figures.
Judah Mintz (3) tunnels his way towards the basket in SU’s 72-63 win over Wake Forest. The freshman was one of three players to score in double figures.

Goodbye, regular season and hello, tournament season. With a bye into the second round of the New York Life ACC Tournament, eighth-seeded Syracuse faces ninth-seeded Wake Forest for the second time in four days. The Orange coasted to a 72-63 win over the Demon Deacons in front of an amplified crowd Saturday night, eagerly waiting for the jersey retirement ceremonies of Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick.

That win broke a four-game skid for SU and sent the team off to Greensboro, North Carolina with plenty of good vibes. However, it’s no time to celebrate, as the ‘Cuse sit firmly on the outside of the NCAA Tournament picture. As the team starts its sprint to the finish line, their focus is locked in on the conference championship crown and an automatic bid to the big dance.

In their earlier matchup, Syracuse and Wake Forest opened up the game trading buckets in what was shaping up to be a back-and-forth affair. It wasn’t until midway through the first-half that SU began pulling away.

The Orange led 15-14 after the ten minute mark, but a Jesse Edwards dunk sparked a 10-0 run for the Orange over a 3:05 scoreless stretch for the Demon Deacons.

The Flying Dutchman ended the game with 27 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first player to record a 20-20 game since Paul Harris in 2009 and first SU player to do it regulation since Derrick Coleman in 1990.

Coming off of his historic effort, the senior center is just one player hoping to carry some end of the season momentum into the conference tournament. Freshman Judah Mintz has also set the conference ablaze in the months of February and March. The point guard has averaged 18.5 points per game in his last eight contests, and nearly tied his season-high of 24 with 23-point efforts against Georgia Tech (February 28) and Clemson (February 22).

Wake Forest enters the second round battle with one thing Syracuse doesn’t have: an All-ACC First Team player. Tyree Appleby received the third-most votes for All-ACC honors. The senior also led the conference in scoring with 18.8 points per game.

The bulk of the offensive production is likely resting on Appleby's shoulders, but he’ll need some help from his interior players as well. Matthew Marsh and Bobi Klintman, seven-foot-one and six-foot-ten respectively, have to stop Edwards this time and give Appleby and the Demon Deacons more offense. Wake Forest scored 26 points in the paint last time out, to SU’s 40.

Round two between Syracuse and Wake Forest begins at noon on Wednesday. Pregame coverage starts at 11:30 AM with McClurg Team Countdown to Tipoff.