In a truly ugly game, Syracuse was able to rally from down 5 in the last five minutes to escape with a close win against a tough Miami defense. The Orange shot the ball terribly in the second half before getting bailed out by C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas. When the dust settled, the Orange yet again found a way to win the game.
Miami started the game shooting extremely well from long distance, but then cooled down significantly and could not hit a three pointer in the final 10 minutes of the game. On the other side, Syracuse's sharpshooter Trevor Cooney struggled from deep as well, with his worst shooting day this season. This game was truly painful to watch, from missed shots to bobbled rebounds, with a healthy dose of bad decisions by both teams.
The Rescue Squad
The box score will not show the true picture of this game, other than the season low point totals for both squads. The Orange held a slim 4 point halftime lead, but then failed to score a field goal for the first 9 minutes of the second half before C.J. Fair drained a corner three pointer to pull the Orange back up. C.J. had a couple more clutch baskets to power to the finish, and drew a momentum-shifting offensive foul to help propel Syracuse to victory. Fair finished with a game high 15 points and 6 rebounds, on a night where only two other players (Ennis and Cooney) even broke into double digits. The performance was why C.J. Fair will contend for ACC Player of the Year, as he embraces the spotlight and finishes with clutch play after clutch play, even without help from his teammates.
Rakeem Christmas found himself glued to the court in the second half, without Dajuan Coleman as an option, and Baye Keita having rebounding trouble. For all the criticism Christmas has heard about his rebounding, he finished the game with a game high 7 rebounds and 8 points. Rak game up big down the stretch, and had two crucial baskets to help Syracuse dig out of the late 5 point hole that they dug, and then found a way to come down with several very important rebounds against an aggressive Miami front court. The Orange do not leave this game with a win without the strong play down the stretch by Rakeem Christmas.
Tyler Ennis cannot go without mention, as he played a very good ball game, somehow finding a way to put up 10 very impressive points, 7 steals in a game where his teammates couldn't buy a basket, and 3 steals to only 2 turnovers. While Ennis played well, he had a little trouble defending three pointers in the first half, and almost played too calmly to end the game, as Syracuse was hit with a shot clock violation in an important possession due to his very deliberate style. Ennis had yet another impressive game for a freshman, and was one of the few reliable players today for a very streaky Orange team.
Several Orange had a rough game today, headlined by Trevor Cooney's 2-12 from three point range. They say when a shooter is off, the best medicine is to keep shooting. Well Cooney took a lot of medicine today, and it just wasn't his day. I don't think this will be a recurring issue, as it seemed to just be the timing of his release, and that's one thing Cooney has worked hard on. Cooney did find a way to make an impact as he had 5 free throws in addition to his two three pointers to finish the game in double digits with 11 points.
Baye Moussa Keita continues to struggle with a much needed body part - his hands. He was unable to hold onto rebounds today, and Boeheim put him on the bench often. Usually, we see BMK on the court to close out close games, but that honor went to Christmas today, who did a very good job. It's gotten to the point where Baye will be open on offense, but his teammates just don't trust him enough to pass it to him.
Jerami Grant seemed off today. He hit one big jump shot during the rally towards the end of the game, but was otherwise quiet and ineffective. He had 5 points and 5 rebounds on 2-7 shooting. The other basket was a highlight reel dunk off of a feed by Ennis, but he was unable to create anything by himself. He found his normal spots on offense, but didn't drive to the basket with conviction, and was denied around the rim often.
I was curious to see how the ACC Referees handle Syracuse basketball in league play, and they let both sides play, very similar to the Big East. Syracuse always had fouls to give at the end of the game, and Miami never got deeper than the 1-and-1 bonus. The refs may have missed a couple possession calls, but otherwise called a very consistent game.
The announcers for the ACC network were surprisingly good, considering the fact that I'm pretty sure they've never seen Syracuse play before. They complimented Miami on hitting their deep threes early, while Villanova was fresh in our minds so we know that deep threes early mean bad shots late. They also threw up a comparison of Tyler Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams without a key stat: Turnovers. Ennis looked good without that stat, but when you consider he has 1.2 TO/game and MCW had 3.5 per game, you realize what the big deal is.
Syracuse kept their fans on their feet today, but for 10 minutes of the second half it was not by choice, but rather by their inability to get a basket. The Orange escaped their first ACC experience with a close win against a hungry opponent and a tough defense to remain undefeated at 14-0 on the season. Their next contest is at the 8-5 Virginia Tech Hokies on Tuesday, Jan 7th at 9 PM. Virginia Tech has also beaten Miami this year, but should be a good road test for Syracuse.
Syracuse survives again to keep pushing our expectations to the sky. Until next time fellow Juicers, Let's! Go! S! U!