In a game featuring poor shooting and constant whistles, The Syracuse Orange were able to finally put away the Wake Forest Demon Deacons down the stretch behind 18 points from Tyler Ennis, PhD. The Orange used a well rounded offensive attack with six players scoring at least 6 points to overcome foul trouble and a negative turnover differential.
This game featured several different phases, as forced personnel changes and Syracuse's normal responsive and flexible game plan helped the Orange to overcome some poor shooting. Wake Forest's Joel Arena proved to be a very difficult test for the undefeated Syracuse team, arguably the toughest road test so far.
*Phase One: The Warm-Up*
The beginning of the game was highlighted by several great offensive plays by Rakeem Christmas, including 4 points and 3 offensive rebounds. Once Christmas cooled down, Syracuse's offense started to stall, even though they continued to find open shots and offensive space. Cooney missed several open shots, and was ineffective for most of the game (See Phase Four)
The good news is that SU's defense came ready to play. Several blocks derailed the Wake Forest attack, and the Demon Deacons just weren't able to hit any deep shots. The referees got involved early, calling a rarely seen three-second violation and then two quick fouls on Christmas, who found a seat for the remainder of the half with 14 minutes left. The Orange were seemingly called for "Over-the-Back" fouls when they breathed too hard at a Wake defender.
*Phase Two: Backup is on the way*
Michael Gbinije and Baye Keita's entrances were less than epic. Gbinije tagged out Cooney, and then immediately took his place with a bad three pointer and a turnover. Cooney came back in, only to pick up his third foul and find himself glued to the bench. Baye fared slighly better, mis-handling a pass, but then drawing a foul and hitting both free throws.
Syracuse only hit two field goals in the first eleven minutes, and with Wake leading 12-6, it didn't seem like things would get better. Even at the free throw line, the Orange seemed resigned to only make 1 out of 2 shots. Finally, things started to click, and C.J. Fair showed up with flair, hitting a three pointer to cut the margin to 12-11, before Baye threw down a put-back slam that seemed stolen from Jerami Grant's playbook. Gbinije hit a transition three pointer and all of a sudden, Syracuse was up by three and they never looked back.
Syracuse continued to play tough defense, causing Wake to miss their first 8 three pointers, and CJ provided the offense. All of a sudden, the Orange found themselves about to be up by 8 points at the half. Then, Keita picked up his third foul on an weak drive, and Wake Forest was able to stick a corner three pointer off an inbound play with seconds remaining, and the gap was closed to 26-23 at halftime.
Would the three pointer at the end of the half cause a swing in momentum to push the game in favor of Wake Forest? According to the announcers, Syracuse was now destined to lose.
*Phase Three: The Answer"
Nope. No they weren't. As soon as Tyler Ennis stepped out of the locker room in the second half, the Orange were ready to win.
Jerami Grant grabbed every rebound under the sun, and forced his way to the basket, often drawing fouls. Grant didn't shoot well, but made up for it with aggressive play on both ends. Jerami finished with 12 rebounds, including 7 on the offensive glass, along with 10 points on 3-8 shooting and 4-9 from the Free Throw line.
CJ Fair continued to contribute his senior presence, finishing with 16 points and 8 rebounds, and adding 3 steals. Fair was also able to draw several fouls, and hit 7 of his 11 Free throws to help pad his line.
As well as the forwards did, Wake Forest was persistent and stuck around. They started to hit a few three pointers, Syracuse kept missing free throws, and the Orange just couldn't shake them. After expanding the lead to 8, it shrank back down to just two points.
*Phase Four: The After-Burners*
Tyler Ennis decided it was time to put the game away. Ennis put up 16 second half points on his way to a line of 18 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. The scariest part of the game was when Ennis twisted his ankle trying to jump a moving screen on defense. By the end of the game, PhD seemed fine again, but we will obviously want to keep posted as we approach a Saturday date that has been circled since October.
As Mark Titus of Grantland wrote: "Syracuse opponents always come up short because Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair eat Cinnamon Toast Clutch for breakfast."
Wake had no answer at the end of the game, and just couldn't hit enough shots to compete. Trevor Cooney showed up at the end of the game, throwing in 8 straight points to put the game out of reach, and go with his 6 rebounds in the stat sheet. The Syracuse two-headed beast also ended with impressive stat-lines, both contributing 6 points, with Christmas adding 7 rebounds and 3 blocks, and Keita finishing with 8 rebounds and 5 blocks.
*The Other Juice*
Tom Werme and Cory Alexander called the game for the MSG network's ACC coverage. Werme was very decent, however Alexander was insufferable. Rather than any bias, it was just the stupid that kept leaking from his mouth. In the first half, he insisted that Syracuse played a match-up zone, because it's "clearly not a 2-3 zone", and he should know, because he used to play zone.
Both announcers were sure that Wake Forest's McKie's three pointer was the turning point of the game, and just like Cal's Crabbe, and kept putting them "right back in it!". Then, Alexander was truly impressed that the referees decided to wait until a stoppage until they reviewed a three pointer by Ennis. Finally, he could not fathom how the Carrier Dome could increase capacity to keep breaking attendance records. Even after Werme explained that they play on a football field that seats 50,000+, you could tell Alexander didn't get it.
The refs were brutal, as Syracuse played Big East basketball, and they were unable to tell when Wake was creating the contact. They missed several offensive fouls on Syracuse, and the final differential of 23 WF fouls to 22 SU fouls included Wake's 6 or 7 garbage time fouls when the game was put away.
Unfortunately, Syracuse missed out on much of this benefit, shooting 15-25 from the charity stripe through the first 35 minutes before hitting their final 7 of 8. They need to tighten this up if they want to *Beat Duke*.
20 and 0 for the second time in three years, the #2 Orange look finally to the match-up with Duke at the Carrier Dome on Saturday to determine ACC Blue Blood dominance. Until then fellow Juicers, LET'S! GO! S! U!