Syracuse Orange 64 - Miami Hurricanes 52
In a game of runs, the Syracuse Orange were able to have the last laugh in Miami to retain their undefeated status. The Orange pulled away in the first half, leading by as many as 18, only to let Miami close the gap to 4 at halftime. Miami took the lead midway through the second half, only for Syracuse to clamp down and finish the job with clutch plays and tight defense.
In the sequel to the Carrier Dome original which ended with both teams under 50 points, this game featured more made baskets, but the same deliberate pace. Both teams shot about 63% from the field, and Miami stayed in the game by going 9-17(53%) from three point range, compared to 5-11(46%) for Syracuse.
*Miami Magic, Part II*
New day, same story for Syracuse, who was able to get off to a quick start behind good shooting and a well rounded attack, only to let a less talented opponent stay in the game with rough bounces and bad decisions.
C.J. Fair keyed much of the offensive attack with 10 points in the first 10 minutes. CJ hit a threw pointer, jump shot, and offensive putback to look like the CJ we all love. We didn't see much else from CJ until he hit a key jumper to boost the lead to 4 with three minutes left to end with 15 points. Fair grabbed 7 rebounds, and added 3 assists, but still tends to disappear on offense for extended stretches, and Miami was able to take advantage. CJ has the potential for greatness, and can be counted on for 15 points and 6 boards every game, but still needs to take it upon himself to try for 25 points. He is notoriously patient, and rarely takes a bad shot, but I think he deserves the chance to start taking some additional shots, whether good or bad. I'm ready to trust CJ Fair to take us to the promised land.
Tyler Ennis played as complete and strong a game we have seen, en route to 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, with only 2 turnovers. Both turnovers happened in the first ten minutes, and other than a few wild missed shots (that Ennis usually makes), Tyler contributed a mistake free second half on offense. Ennis continues to be Cool Hand Luke for this team, providing emotional stability and a strong hand on the wheel, driving the Orange to victory. I think we need to decide on a nickname for Ennis, because Paul Pierce already took "The Truth". Truth.0?
Jerami Grant continues to be the X-Factor for Syracuse on both sides of the floor. Grant tossed in 14 points on 8-12 from the free throw line, and was key in grabbing 8 rebounds. Grant was problematic for the Miami "Match-up Zone", and drew a lot of attention, and fouls, when he was able to get the ball deep. Outside of his normal highlight reel putback (this one a one-hander with a rodeo finish), Grant had a little trouble finishing around the rim, and could have easily finished with 18-20 points. Jerami continues to be great, with potential for excellence.
*Round Fruit Round-Ball Round-up*
Trevor Cooney seemed a bit resigned today. I'm not sure if somebody told him to take it easy until he found his stroke, but he only shot the ball 6 times, although they were all three pointers. Three of them went in to finish the day 50% from deep, and Cooney finished with 11 points. Cooney looked open at times, and his teammates couldn't find him. It was good to see him make some shots, especially a much-needed trey to widen the lead to 6 late in the second half. Let's hope this carries over to the next game.
Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita split center duties, and both were moderately effective. Christmas finished with 6 points and 4 rebounds, and Keita added 4 points and 6 rebounds. Christmas did especially well with the over-the-top alley-oops, breaking up three of them, two of which created turnovers. Keita played admirably on offense, and 4 of his rebounds were on the offensive glass. This is the production and consistently that we need out of these two without Dajuan to eat any minutes, and they need to continue to avoid foul trouble.
Michael Gbinije played five first half minutes, with only a steal and a missed shot to show for it. I'm actually surprised we didn't see more Silent G when Miami continued to drain their three pointers. Tyler Roberson also entered the game briefly, but only grabbed one rebound before finding the bench. It was good to see the two of them log game time with minimal mistakes.
It was tough to get a gauge on the crowd. It was in Miami, and the student section was able to make some noise, but it seems that quite the Syracuse contingent was present. There were audible cheers as the Orange pulled away late. It's always great to see the national fanbase show support, especially so far from home. However, I worry that it gives critics reasons to call this yet another home victory for SU.
Miami ran a simple play where they kept three players around the perimeter, at the top and two wings, and entered the ball to Tonye Jekiri at the high post. Jeriki turned to face the basket, and then kicked the ball to the open perimeter player for a wide open three. This play was run several times, and Syracuse was never able to figure it out. The reason they were able to stop the play was that Jekiri picked up his fourth foul with ten minutes left to go. This could be trouble for future opponents with three deep shooters and a competent big-man.
As the game got close, there was one play that aggravated Syracuse fans everywhere. Miami lobbed an alley-oop, but the pass was so bad that it went directly the basket, with some help from Miami basket interference. The problem was that the refs awarded Miami three points, even after review. I understand not being able to call goaltending in video review, but they should have at least acknowledge that the last offensive player to touch the ball was inside the arc and limited to two points. Hell, they should have just called goaltending right away, and waved the basket off. This play couldn't be forgotten, as three points could have easily affected the outcome.
Syracuse emerged with it's best conference road win so far this season, and was able to weather the Hurricanes formidable game plan twice this year. Syracuse moves to 19-0, and looks ahead to a Wednesday match @ Wake Forest before the February 1st game against Duke that's been circled since October.
Feels good to survive another weekend at the top. Cherish it while you can, and until next time, LET'S! GO! S! U!