Syracuse 70 - Eastern Michigan 48
The Syracuse Orange were able to defeat the increasingly familiar Eastern Michigan Eagles using powerful post play featuring Jerami Grant, C.J. Fair, and Rakeem Christmas. The Orange led this one from beginning to finish, using their early cushion to help dominate a big and talented Eagles squad to close out their Non-Conference Schedule, as well as 2013, undefeated.
It seems like a different Syracuse team shows up each game, as Jerami Grant and Rakeem Christmas led the offense this game, with Tyler Ennis being held to 0 points on 4 shots. It demonstrates a lot of flexibility being able to adjust the offensive game plan based on the most favorable match-ups. Today, the Orange were able to exploit a big advantage in the paint to coast to victory, even against a team that featured a feisty 2-3 zone defense very similar to Syracuse's.
The big news of the day was that Dajuan Coleman sat out the game in street clothes due to a knee injury from a practice twos weeks ago. Obviously, Coleman's history with knee injuries has us cause for concern, so we will stay tuned on his progress.
Jerami Grant seized the starting opportunity from the opening tip, converting 9 of the Orange's first 11 points to build an 11-3 lead, and opened the game 5-5 from the field with two "and-1" opportunities. Grant slashed his way through the paint all game, dominating Eastern Michigan's interior defense. Grant finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds, as he found the bench once the lead got large in order to give Tyler Roberson some experience ahead of conference play.
We also got to witness a Rakeem Christmas renaissance, featuring hungry and aggressive play on both ends, providing a season high 15 points on 7-8 shooting and 2 blocks, as he was able to convert several well-executed post plays, including a couple alley-oops. Rakeem even opened scoring for the day with a fade-away jumper from the corner that made everyone cringe until it hit nylon. Hopefully we see more of this Christmas during conference play, especially if Dajuan is out for an extended period of time.
C.J. Fair also chipped in 13 points and 8 rebounds, but was very active around the ball all game. His position as the team leader and go-to guy was reinforced, especially when they needed to put this game away. It seems Fair is having a little bit of trouble with his long distance shooting, putting up a 0-5 line to move his season three point percentage to almost under 30%.
Baye Keita, as always, played good defense, adding 2 blocks and 2 points and 3 rebounds. A typical Keita line, but it shouldn't go without recognizing.
*Rock and Role Players*
Once the game was in hand, Syracuse tried to use their whole offensive gambit, rather than relying on Cooney, Ennis and Fair to do all the heavy lifting. Ennis may not have scored, but he had 9 assists, 3 steals, and 5 rebounds, and was a ball hound on defense against a team that shot 28 three pointers (compared to 14 for Syracuse).
Cooney had 10 points, including (only) 2-5 three point shooting. Cooney got some rest as Michael Gbinije was able to find some real court time. Gbinije put up 6 points, and got a lot of exposure. He missed a couple fast break conversions, and had 4 fouls, but otherwise played extremely well in his back-up capacity.
Tyler Roberson emerged as the 8th player off the bench, now that Coleman has been sidelined. Roberson played very respectively, keeping up with the defense and adding 6 points on offense to go with his 5 rebounds. He showed a couple nifty moves, and seems to be the most likely freshman not named Ennis to play some minutes during conference play. He appears to be winning Boeheim's confidence, which is required for any playing time.
BJ Johnson and Bus Patterson also saw the court with 3 1/2 minutes remaining to clean this one up. BJ Johnson finally hit a three pointer, as he was 1 for his previous 12 from deep.
This one puts a cap on a great beginning to the 2013-14 season, as the Orange get to enter ACC play as the only undefeated team. It may put a big target on their back, but it's a sweet smell of success to strut big stuff in the inaugural year. We kick off ACC play vs Miami at the Dome, on Saturday at 2 PM.
I've been tough on the refs, so I wanted to note that we saw excellent officiating tonight. There were a couple hard plays for Rob Murphy to swallow, but they called a very fair and consistent game. Kudos to them, and it felt great after the Villanova experience.
Eastern Michigan has scored 48 points against us three years in a row. Even though we didn't get tacos this year, the defensive consistency is impressive.
I will be releasing a Non-Conference Report Card tomorrow. Until then, Happy New Year!! And of course, Lets! Go! S! U!