With Jim Boeheim watching and six former Syracuse players on the roster, it took a former Green Bay guard to help push Boeheim's Army over the top and win The Basketball Tournament championship on Tuesday night.
Keifer Sykes buried a pull-up 3-pointer to give Boeheim's Army a 69-67 win over Team 23 in the final of the TBT, capping off a 21-point performance.
Boeheim's Army takes home $1 million in the winner-take-all format. The players are splitting the money evenly, winning $80,000 apiece, while the general managers and coaches are earning between $40,000 and $60,000.
"Seven years, we got here and we did it," guard Eric Devendorf said in his postgame interview. "It feels good. I appreciate all the support. ... This is the best university in the world! Syracuse."
After coming up short in previous years of The Basketball Tournament, the Syracuse-laden Boeheim's Army looked outside the family for help in winning a championship. Sykes, former Boston College star Tyrese Rice and veteran TBT champions D.J. Kennedy and DeAndre Kane joined the fold.
The newcomers clearly helped. Kane, who won three TBT championships with Overseas Elite, played the most minutes of anyone on Boeheim's Army in the first five games of the tournament. Kennedy, who won four titles with Overseas Elite, was the team's leading rebounder throughout the tournament. Rice paced the team in scoring and assists, while Sykes carried them in the title game.
Boeheim's Army, which entered Tuesday with the most wins in TBT history without a title, had been knocked out in the quarterfinals four times and the semifinals on one occasion.
"They added some guys that have experience in this tournament and won this tournament," Boeheim told ESPN's Jen Hale before the game. "We've adopted them all. They're now Syracuse guys. Once you play with our guys, you're with us."
Team 23, which had 14 players representing 14 different schools, had rolled through the first five games of the TBT. It never scored fewer than 74 points in a game and won three games by 16 or more points. When Kane went down with a left groin injury in the opening minutes of the game, it looked like Team 23's trend might continue.
Former Syracuse players Andrew White and Devendorf -- playing in his final TBT -- stepped up to keep the game close, with White hitting a couple jumpers in the second quarter and Devendorf hitting a jumper to end a 15-5 run for Team 23.
Team 23's depth advantage helped extend its lead to five toward the end of the third quarter, but Sykes started heating up. He hit a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in the third quarter to cut the lead to two points, then scored five straight points early in the fourth quarter to cut a six-point deficit to one.
After a Kennedy layup gave Boeheim's Army a one-point lead with under five minutes left, both teams missed shots before the Elam Ending began with a target score of 69.
Sykes was fouled on a 3-pointer, making all three free throws. A Kennedy offensive rebound and putback made it a 14-4 run and put Boeheim's Army just three points from a title. Eric Griffin, who came up big all night for Team 23, hit a 3-pointer and Eric Washington made two free throws to put Team 23 on the brink of a championship.
After both teams saw shots rim out, Sykes looked off a ball screen, took one dribble and buried a 3 to win the game -- and finally give Boeheim's Army its long-anticipated championship.