USA TODAY Sports
After consecutive road losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh, the Syracuse Orange were looking to get back on track when they hosted Notre Dame Monday night.
Head of the Class: Jerami Grant
Those of you who have children know how it feels when your baby takes his or her first steps. They’re a little wobbly, they may fall down, they may even get hurt. But you can’t help but smile when they finally get it right, and soon enough they walk around like they own the place.
That’s kind of how I feel about Jerami Grant. He is thisclose to figuring it out. When he does, he’s going to own the place.
In the much ballyhooed meeting with his older brother Jerian, and with an ESPN Big Monday audience watching, Harvey’s kid may have had his national coming out party. Here are the raw numbers: 14 points (career high) on 6-8 shooting (75%!), plus 2-2 from the line and 6 rebounds. Oh, and he played the full 40 minutes. That’s all. His trademark energy electrified the Orange from the start, helping them surge to a quick 10-0 lead. If you’re wondering just how much his athleticism can spark the home crowd and charge up his teammates, look no further than this second half rejection of a Jack Cooley shot attempt.
Imagine how nuts Grant is going to be when he really learns how to play.
Rakeem Christmas: I’ll be honest. For most of the Pitt game on Saturday I forgot he was on the team. To call him a “no-show” would be kind to previous no-shows. That changed Monday night. In 36 minutes of action, Rakeem clocked his best overall game of the year. 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks, and held Big East player of the year candidate Jack Cooley to 10 points, many of them scored only after the game was decided. It’s a huge turnaround from Christmas’s previous game, when he attempted a grand total of zero shots vs. the Panthers, and may not have even touched the ball on offense. That leads me to…
Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche: Huh? How do two guys who totaled 12 points between them in 67 minutes deserve a mention? Because that could be precisely what the Orange need them to do in order to win. As a team, SU had only FIVE assists vs. Pitt. MCW and Triche each exceeded that individually on Monday, MCW dishing out 8 while Triche added 6. When they distribute, they allow teammates like Christmas and Grant to receive the ball where they are comfortable, and the results were evident. Triche can suffer through a 2-9 shooting night when he has a half dozen dimes like he did Monday. But when he goes 4-14 with only one assist like he did at Pitt, the offense gets stagnant and the other players on the floor become spectators instead of scoring threats.
C.J. Fair: This season’s MVP. Plain and simple. Monday night he logged his 5th straight 40 minute game (45 vs. ‘Nova), and scored in double digits in each of them. He posted a tidy 18-10 with 3 steals vs. the Irish, his 7th double-double of the year. You rarely see him make a dumb mistake, and rarely see him chewed out by Boeheim. That’s saying something.
Stay After Class
3-Point Shooting: Let’s be frank. There isn’t much to pick at on the SU side of things. They played about as well as they have all season, given their roster limitations. However, they did shoot a concerning 4-15 from three, good for only 26.7%. Triche was the chief offender, going 0-5 from deep. So, let’s work on that this week, ok?
Final Grade: A-
Post-game video of Jerami Grant and Rakeem Christmas (and Grant again) talking about their excellent outings on Monday.