Syracuse, N.Y. ― As chase-down blocks go, Robert Braswell may not be up there with LeBron James or even Syracuse teammate Alan Griffin, but the sophomore still registered a blocked shot that might have saved a win for Syracuse in Saturday’s game against Georgetown.
The Hoyas had chipped Syracuse’s 16-point lead down to just four points with five minutes left in the game when Georgetown guard Jahvon Blair broke clear for a fastbreak layup.
Braswell, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, closed the gap between him and Blair and flew in to swat the shot away.
Syracuse took advantage with a quick-change fastbreak of its own, pushing the ball upcourt to Buddy Boeheim, who drilled a 3-pointer for a 68-61 lead.
“He made the key play of the game with that block,’’ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “It was an unbelievable block.’’
It didn’t win an NBA title (as LeBron’s did) and it didn’t come in the game’s final seconds (as Griffin’s did in Syracuse’s win over Buffalo back in December), but it was still so impressive that Boeheim later described it as “spectacular.’’
Syracuse fans have been waiting to see more of Braswell. He was hampered by debilitating pain in his knees and shins during his first two years. After appearing in seven games last season, he took a medical redshirt to give his legs a chance to heal.
Boeheim said Braswell’s knees are still bothersome, but he’s trying to manage and play through the pain.
“Robert’s a great jumper,’’ Boeheim said. “His knees just still bother him. He’s going to play through it as best he can.
“But that was the play of the game,’’ he said, referring back to Braswell’s blocked shot. “It could’ve saved the game really. We came right down and scored. That was a huge play.’’
Although he started this season by missing his first 12 shots from 3-point range, Braswell carries a reputation of being a shooter. He was 5-for-8 from 3-point range in his first two seasons at Syracuse.
He broke out of his slump in SU’s loss to Pittsburgh last Wednesday, draining four out of five 3-point shots. He knocked down another 3-pointer against Georgetown.
But he made his biggest impact on the game at the defensive end of the court. And it wasn’t just limited to one blocked shot.
Braswell also had two rebounds and three steals, tying his career-high set two years ago at North Carolina State.
Boeheim said Braswell is the team’s best defensive forward. All three of his steals came in the second half. His last theft led to a dunk for Griffin off a lob pass from Boeheim to give the Orange a 70-65 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
“He made two great steals down there,’’ Boeheim said. “They would have been layups if he wasn’t in there. He’s the best on our team of rotating back and rotating over and making those plays.’’
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