Syracuse 69 - Indiana 52
Syracuse broke open an early second half tie with a 25-4 run to blow out Indiana in the Carrier Dome in this Sweet Sixteen Rematch. The guards shined in this one, with Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis setting the tone and the Forwards providing the defense and physical play that has become a Syracuse trademark this year. The Orange shook off a back and forth first half, starting the game up 10-0, only to let Indiana take the lead momentarily, before staging the big second half run to put the game away. This was a physical game, as Indiana had two flagrant fouls, including one ejection on a scary fast break foul on Trevor Cooney, and Christmas, Coleman, Keita, Gbinije, and Fair all ended with 4 fouls.
The vaunted 2-3 zone disrupted Indiana's offense all night long, producing tipped passes, steals, and block after block, forcing the Hoosiers into 37% shooting on 15-47 FGs. Indiana had more offense than last March, with Noah Vonleh playing strong inside, and putting up 17 points, including 13 free throws. However, outside the play of Vonleh and a big putback dunk by Troy Williams, Indiana threw up question mark after question mark on the offensive end. The second half of this game was truly fun to watch as a Syracuse fan, and probably extremely painful to watch for the Hoosiers.
Guards - Ennis's Hands and Cooney's Touch
Ennis was the floor leader today, putting up 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists, with his normal calm demeanor and poise. His hands were terrific, and disrupted the passing lanes as Indiana's guards tried to drive and kick. Ennis is a true point guard and provides the flow on the offensive end, putting together a 6-8 shooting night, including making his only three pointer (although a truly ugly basket off the back rim).
Trevor Cooney is emerging as an emotional leader and the secondary offensive weapon behind CJ Fair, and when he makes shots, the rest of the team gets better looks. Cooney stayed hot from three, and put up 21 points on 5-9 from long range, as well as 4 steals on the defensive end. He also had two big fast break plays, one being an emphatic slam, and the other when he was dangerously fouled by Indiana's Austin Etherington, which effectively sealed the game for the 'Cuse. Cooney was sent flying into the padding at the base of the basket, and Etherington was sent into the locker room. Thankfully, Cooney did not seem to get hurt too badly, and even stayed in the game and finished strong. Cooney's three point shooting was instrumental, as he made shots at the beginning of the game, to end the half, and to blow the game open halfway through the second.
Big, Physical Play
Once again, the Syracuse centers and forwards provided a strong physical presence on the interior, challenging every shot and putting bodies on the floor. While Vonleh did manage to put up a decent game, every shot was contested and he only made 2 FGs. The 7 blocks that show up in the box score for Syracuse don't count the blocks after fouls (4 by my count) and the two aggressive goal-tends by Grant and Christmas on baskets that would have gone in anyway.
Syracuse actually held the edge in rebounds 29-28 over the number one rebounding team in the nation coming into this game. The only problem that plagued the big men tonight was foul trouble, although it didn't have an impact on the score. Foul issues dictate substitution needs, instead of the game flow. The roles for the centers are staying consistent, with Dajuan Coleman providing an offensive boost, Baye Keita providing a defensive backbone and leadership, and Rakeem Christmas showing excellent play on both sides of the ball, only to come back with frustrating play on both sides.
Baye still can't catch a pass, and let two easy ones slip through his hands.
CJ Fair and Jerami Grant were very quiet today. CJ was hounded by Will Sheehey and foul trouble, and Grant seemed lethargic and uninterested at times. Don't take this to mean trouble, as it was more due to the fact that they were not needed to win this one. CJ had another day at the office with 15 points and 4 rebounds to go along with his defensive prowess. He has set our expectations too high, as we know he can put up 15-4 when he is sleeping. He hit a couple deep two pointers, had several good drives, and was a Senior leader on the court, playing much of his time with 4 fouls. Fair still has mental lapses, and can be counted on every game for one silly offensive foul, one palm/double dribble, and one lost ball while backing in. Once he puts these pieces together, he will be as complete of a player as Syracuse has had since You Know Who.
Jerami still provided explosive athleticism, including a big put-back dunk and ball-hawk defense, but he seemed to be in Boeheim's Doghouse, not entering the second half for the first 7 minutes. He seemed indecisive at times offensively, not sure whether to shoot the long two or drive. Grant is a big offensive outlet as the fourth option, and when he is needed he will come up big this year. Once the defense adapted to Cooney and Fair, Ennis was able to find Grant with space, but it didn't necessarily translate into points. Grant will be a big time player down the stretch, and just needs to find his role as the 6th man forward, similar to Kris Joseph in 2010-11.
Gbinije plays an interesting role on this team. He is a ball handling guard that doesn't drive enough and hesitates to shoot. He provides a great defensive option up top at 6' 7". Gbinije is the last guy Boeheim trusts off the bench after Grant and Keita, and Boeheim loves to shorten the lineup and move him back to Forward when Grant or CJ get into foul trouble. I like Gbinije's attitude and his toughness, as he is not afraid to give a foul or stare an opponent down.
We had a freshman sighting! Roberson, Patterson, and BJ Johnson all hit the floor with one minute remaining, and promptly... ran the clock out. It's good to know Big B hasn't forgotten about them yet.
The Orange reminded us that they still haven't quite perfected the free throw shooting after a terrific showing in Hawaii. Luckily this wasn't a close game, as they only hit 15-25 for 60%, and everyone who shot a free throw, missed at least one.
That's just what Syracuse did to Indiana today: Take this game away. They waited until the Hoosiers thought the game was in reach and ripped it away from them.They took away the ball on the defensive end. They took good shots on the offensive end. This was another fine showing for our Orange, as their 2-3 zone and three point shooting shined on the big stage of ESPN.
Until next time friends. Let's! Go! S! U!