BALTIMORE — Boeheim’s Army knew what it would take to beat an Overseas Elite team that entered Tuesday with a 17-0 record in The Basketball Tournament and its two most recent trophies. The writing was, quite literally, on the wall. The whiteboard in the team’s locker room read “the keys to the game.”
Bring Energy. Awareness in the zone. Find Shooters. Everybody must rebound. Push the ball.
But as players walked past that whiteboard to say goodbyes two days earlier than planned, after an 81-77 defeat at the hands of Overseas Elite, they knew those objectives were not fulfilled. At least not to a degree that was good enough to beat the unbeaten. The mistakes were too costly, and the run at TBT’s $2 million dollar prize ended late Tuesday night in the semifinal at Coppin State.
“We didn’t do things we needed to consistently enough,” Boeheim’s Army head coach Ryan Blackwell said.
Mishaps did not bury SU at first. Overseas Elite held only a four-point advantage at the break. BA guard Eric Devendorf led the way with 10 points and fellow guard Brandon Triche followed with seven of his own. The two were the clear aggressors in Boeheim’s Army’s offense that focused on attacking the rim off the dribble. That checked off one of the whiteboard’s keys.
But defensive lapses outweighed any completed objectives. Blackwell pointed to poor rotation in the 2-3 zone, a defense that even at its best dares opponents to shoot from deep, as the root of the problems. OE’s Errick McCollum II and DeAndre Kane accepted the challenge and shot 7-of-10 beyond the arch. McCollum didn’t miss from deep in the first half, good for a perfect 4-for-4.
Devendorf did as well. He finished with 27 points on 8-of-12 from the field. Yet it was a shot that he challenged that will be remembered. With the close-game narrative staying constant early in the second half, his team down by only four and the two sides trading baskets, Paris Horne pulled up from the top of the key as Devendorf closed from the wing to contest. He grazed Horne and the whistle blew.
After Horne converted two of his three free throws, the lead grew to six. It would never fall below four again.
In the waning minutes of any basketball game, there’s one rule that sits among the most important: never foul the jump shooter. After watching a violation of that very law burn the Ohio State alumni team in the night’s first semifinal, Devendorf broke it himself when the margin on the scoreboard and margin for error were equally tight.
“I thought we were getting a little bit of momentum,” Blackwell said. “That’s a tough play for us.”
Still, Boeheim’s Army did manage to keep the game close. With 10 minutes left, guard John Gillon found forward James Southerland wide open in the lane. He rose for a two-handed slam to cut the lead to five, awaking the Orange fans scattered in the stands. Devendorf and guard Trevor Cooney added open shots from 3, with the latter of the two bringing the margin back to four with less than two minutes left.
But Overseas Elite always seemed to respond with points of its own. The next bucket to sink after Cooney’s big three was one from the corner by Kane, which Devendorf later highlighted as the toughest one to watch go down. A Devendorf and-one was followed up with a free throw from DJ Kennedy. BA tried a full-court pass, but the ball bounced off Rick Jackson’s hand and out of bounds. The play was reviewed. The referees kept possession with OA and BA’s last chance went with it. Devendorf said after the game he thought they got it wrong.
He also said that it wasn’t just a play or two that decided the game. For 36 minutes, Blackwell said, Overseas Elite played as a team — something Boeheim’s Army could have done to live up to that writing on the wall.
“It’s tough because we didn’t even play well and we lost by four,” Blackwell said.