SYRACUSE — Joe Girard III wasted no time displaying his development at point guard to lift the Syracuse University men’s basketball team to a victory in its season opener Tuesday night in the Carrier Dome.
Girard III scored a team-high 20 points, including a perfect 5-for-5 mark on 3-point field goals, and delivered seven assists to lead five players in double figures and help the Orange beat the Lafayette Leopards, 97-63, in front of 19,929 fans.
Brothers Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim scored 18 points apiece in their first game as college teammates to help the Orange tip off the 46th season as head coach for their dad, Jim Boeheim, with a victory.
Syracuse will next host Drexel in another nonconference game at 5 p.m. Sunday in the same location.
Girard III went 6-for-9 from the field overall and played just 24 minutes in the easy win. He scored 15 in the first half to push SU to a 52-30 advantage at the break and hit a step-back from behind the arc with 12 minutes left before exiting to an ovation.
“He was good, he wasn’t scoring early but he was getting the ball in the right situations,” SU coach Jim Boeheim said. “It takes a guy who was primarily a scorer in high school to becoming a point guard, it’s been a journey learning some things, but he’s a really good point guard and he gives you a threat that he can make shots.”
Girard III spoke afterward of growing more confident as a pure point guard after primarily being asked to score in high school.
The 6-foot-1 and 190-pound junior scored a state-record 4,763 career points at Glens Falls High School before shifting to the primary ball handler as an SU freshman. He averaged 3.5 assists per game in each of his first two seasons and finished one shy of his career high on Tuesday.
Girard III helped fuel the SU offensive movement that resulted in 25 assists on 37 field goals and a 13-for-26 performance on 3-pointers.
“I always worked on my handle a lot but this offseason I worked on it even a little bit more I think, just getting back to being a little quick guy, a little fast guy, and just making sure that I have the ability to get around guys to give (teammates) open shots as well,” Girard III said.
“I was just taking what’s given to me tonight,” he added. “My shots were obviously there, so it was just taking whatever is given to me and trying to make the right play at all times.”
Jimmy Boeheim made an instant impression in his SU debut. The graduate senior forward scored the first eight points for the Orange in his team debut and made his first five shot attempts.
The oldest son of SU coach Jim Boeheim, who sat out last season when the Ivy League opted out due to COVID-19 concerns and eventually transferred in from Cornell, showed little rust in finishing 8-for-9 from the field and 2-for-3 on 3-point field goals.
“I just had a lot of fun out there, it was my first game in more than 600 days, so I’m sure you could tell that I was itching to get back out there,” Jimmy Boeheim said. “My teammates set me up early, coaches prepared us, and I just went out and had fun.”
Buddy Boeheim, who connected on 3 of 9 from deep in his 18-point outing, said of watching Jimmy’s fast start: “It was pretty awesome, a special moment. I know my mom was loving it, my dad, we were all loving it, but we know what he’s capable of and we’re not surprised.”
Cole Swider added a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds to overcome a poor first-half shooting effort, while starting center Jesse Edwards added 11 points and three blocks for the Orange.