The Basketball Tournament

No. 3 seed Boeheim’s Army dominates No. 14 seed DuBois Dream, 99-66, in opening round of The Basketball Tournament

Joe Bloss | Senior Staff Writer

Boeheim's Army will play Gaelnation Sunday afternoon after a dominating 99-66 win over DuBois Dream.

PHILADELPHIA — It felt like one of those early season games at Syracuse, where everyone knows the team coming to the Carrier Dome barely stands a chance. It’s a tuneup for the Orange, or in this case, Boeheim’s Army, playing its first game in The Basketball Tournament at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center.

Just like every Syracuse game, fans clapped until the first Boeheim’s Army bucket. It took all of 20 seconds, a John Gillon 3. The team scored 14 points before its opponent, DuBois Dream, moved on from zero. The lead was 20 at the half and No. 3 seed Boeheim’s Army never looked back, drubbing No. 14 seed DuBois Dream, 99-66, in the opening round of The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team, single-elimination tournament that awards $2 million to the last team standing.

“First impressions last,” Gillon said.

DuBois Dream’s roster, assembled from the area surrounding DuBois, Pennsylvania, contains players who played for much smaller schools: Marywood, Washington & Jefferson and Penn State DuBois to name a few. The players were not equipped to handle a squad like Boeheim’s Army, one filled with former Division I athletes and current pros.

Brandon Triche and Trevor Cooney spent last season in the newly renamed NBA G-League. C.J. Fair most recently played in France’s top league. Eric Devendorf finished his first season as the assistant strength coach at Syracuse. Then there’s a recent graduate in Gillon, who a few months ago suited up for Syracuse and hit a buzzer-beating 3 against Duke.

“It means a lot to me that they would even let me step on the court with them,” Gillon said.

With that first bucket, Gillon seemed to fit in just fine. The triples kept coming. On plenty of possessions, DuBois was content letting Boeheim’s Army shoot from the 3-point line. Boeheim’s Army accepted the dare and shot 8-for-19 from deep in the first half, good for 42.1 percent. It looked like a drill, where the only thing that mattered was the shot going in. No need to chase the offensive rebound, because the same opportunity was available the very next possession.

“We knew they didn’t have a lot of size so we wanted to go inside first,” head coach and former SU big man Ryan Blackwell said, “but they were giving it to us.” 

But Boeheim’s Army began to work inside as the game dragged on. After a make or a miss, the primary ball-handler, often recent SU graduate Gillon, would bolt straight for the rim. Early in the second half, Gillon drove left and faded away for a smooth and-1. Or, if the prospects looked grim, the unrivaled big bodies of Rick Jackson and DaShonte Riley were there for a dump off. 

Yet the gap stayed wide for the entirety of the second half because of speed. Size creates turnovers, of which DuBois had 10, and turnovers mean fast break opportunities.

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Joe Bloss | Senior Staff Writer

Boeheim’s Army shared the rock well. An alley-oop to C.J. Fair in the first captivated the fans in attendance. Trevor Cooney snuck backdoor to the same in the second. In the game’s waning minutes, Gillon slashed right across the lane, only to dish to Riley behind him, who converted a hook high above the defense. The team finished with assists on 23 of its 38 buckets, and all but Riley finished the game in double figures.

The lopsidedness showed on the other end, too. DuBois Dream struggled on offense, connecting on 22.2 percent of its shots at halftime. Boeheim’s Army went with a tight man-to-man defense that smothered its opponents — ironically moving away from the 2-3 zone that its namesake, current Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, employs.

With about eight minutes left, Brandon Triche danced around his man with happy feet until he saw an opening. He poked the ball loose and got an easy layup. Triche finished with a triple-double. The play was no outlier. DuBois Dream’s total of 66 points was the lowest for any team in the Northeast region to date.

Even with a dominating win, Blackwell knew Boeheim’s Army still had room for improvement. He said the team must rebound better; DuBois finished with only four less than the larger Boeheim’s Army. (DuBois lacked a player taller than 6-foot-8.) Defensive switching must be smoother, he added. The desire for improvement wasn’t exclusive to the coach, as Devendorf stressed the ability to run a more efficient half-court offense instead of running the fastbreak.

“I missed a free throw, I missed a dunk, some defensive assignments I messed up on,” Gillon said, “so just being a little more sharp and being more engaged, you can always get better.”

The concerns are valid. Competition will stiffen and other teams will bring more size. Up next is Gaelnation, a team of Iona alumni. 

Unlike Saturday night’s matchup, that game will be anything but a tuneup.

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