The Syracuse Orange held on after a furious second half rally by a scrappy St John's team that's going to cause a lot of trouble in the Big East. This was a defensive battle featuring Big East style play with these two old foes on New York's biggest stage.
In a battle of physical play and poor three point shooting(2-23 combined), Syracuse was able to overcome the final mental battle with Tyler Ennis's cool head and CJ Fair's confident shooting hand. The Red Storm featured Junior SG D'Angelo Harrison, whose dynamic playmaking caused trouble all afternoon, but more importantly, his stifling defense held Orange Sharpshooter Trevor Cooney to 0 points and only 3 shots.
*The Starring Cast*
Tyler Ennis put up 21 points and 6 assists including a clutch 10-10 from the FT line. His ball control and leadership in the late second half were instrumental to the win. He was able to provide answers on the offensive end of the floor the whole game(Literally, playing 40 minutes), either putting it home himself, or finding Grant or Fair in good position.
CJ Fair overcame an above average number of mental lapses to hit several clutch shots down the stretch in isolation, ending with 21 points and 5 rebounds on 9-17 from the field. He had a little trouble before the shot though, with a couple mishandled passes, a travel, and two offensive fouls. However, at the end of the game, his pure shooting was the deciding factor, able to hit NBA style shots in late-game situations.
Jerami Grant also put up a solid game, but his physical play gave the Orange defense a consistent backbone. Grant has 14 points on 5-7 shooting, and added 7 rebounds and a couple BIG blocks, including one in the last minute.
The Orange big men played very well for most of the game, with Dajuan Coleman starting off strong on offense, providing two early buckets, before running into foul trouble and defensive woes against the high post.
Rakeem Christmas played most of the meaningful minutes, and was able to provide an offensive presence and consistent defensive presence. Christmas helped Syracuse with an advantage in the paint, which proved to the be the difference in the game. His downfall continues to be unnecessary fouls when guards drive to the basket that limit his defensive effectiveness and playing time.
We are continuing to see diminishing returns from Baye Keita, who wasn't his normal defensive presence and didn't register an offensive stat. We can at least say he is never a liability on either side.
The Red Storm were finally able to solve Trevor Cooney, who could not find any daylight. He missed his only couple open shots early, and never put it up again. When he had a couple defensive lapses in the second half, he found himself on the bench quickly.
Michael Gbinije played very well, not that his stats show much. He chipped in two big rebounds, but provided excellent defense and solid ball handling in a tight game. He needs to pull the trigger a little quicker at times, but has been a great backup option.
*Other Thoughts on the Game*
Syracuse survived the Gus Johnson curse again. Fox Sports gave us technical difficulties, and a blatant St John's coverage bias. Normally, the #2 team in the country gets a focus, but Gus was way more concerned about what St John's had to do to win this game.
The officials also seemed to have a Red Storm Lean, and missed a number of the new foul calls that Syracuse has consistently received, and made it seem like a true Big East game. The frustrating miss was on an early offensive goaltending slam by St John's that was used in highlights over and over, clearly confirming the missed call.
St John's deserves a lot of credit, as they played great defense and showed good offensive potential, before ultimately being beaten by a series of blunders and mistakes in the end game. They truly threatened the #2 team in the country on both ends.
Syracuse moves to 10-0 and looks ahead to a brush-up against High Point before their big showdown with Villanova on December 28th. It looks like we were good this year, because yet again, we've received an undefeated Orange team for (Rak) Christmas.
Until next time, LET'S! GO! S! U!