Syracuse 72 - Virginia Tech 52
The Syracuse Orange used a solid second half to put away the Virgina Tech Hokies in their first ACC road game. Four players reached double digits and eleven players found the court as the Orange led this game from 5:00 into the first half until the final buzzer.
Syracuse, led by C.J. Fair's 17 points and 6 rebounds, was able to shake off some deep three point shooting by a mediocre Virginia Tech team in front of a quiet Blacksburg, VA crowd as most of the students have not yet returned from break.
This was truly a complete team effort by Syracuse, led by the core four of C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis scoring 75% of Syracuse's points in a reliable and sturdy performance. Senior CJ Fair is starting to threaten death and taxes as the standard for reliability by yet again putting up his season average in points and rebounds. The most important stat for CJ in this game was 0 turnovers, as he was able to produce a near mistake-free night. Fair was able to find his mid-range jumper and convert on several drives to the basket, including a fast break highlight from Ennis. Truly an impressive game, CJ was just a couple denied dunks away from being pure domination.
Jerami Grant played an important piece, proving a lot of energy, especially in the first half, en route to his double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Grant played very well defensively for the most part, including one huge block on an easy layup attempt by the Hokies. Jerami was able to hit a couple first half jumpers, but had some trouble finishing around the rim with his usual gusto. I never thought I'd say this, but Grant just needed to go up strong and dunk it. In the second half he seemed to shy away from the jumper and let defenders play off of him to defend the drive and help hedge on Cooney or CJ.
Trevor Cooney put up an excellent and energetic performance, with 11 points on 3-8 from three point land. He was usually the center piece of the offense, even though he was hounded by a defender all game, but his endurance never faltered. His line seems quiet, but he demanded attention all game by running a tight perimeter set, both offensively defensively.
In his first game on as an ESPN "Freshman Focus" Tyler Ennis threw in his expected 13 points and 7 assists in 36 minutes with his usual arsenal of smart plays and quick decisions. He hit 3 three pointers needed to keep the defense honest as well as a runner and a clean drive to continue to look like the best point guard in the country.
Baye Moussa Keita was the 6th Man in this one, as Rakeem Christmas only found 10 minutes due to foul problems and defensive inconsistency. Keita had an impressive 9 rebounds including 5 offensive boards, even though he still remains a liability on the offensive end. At this point, Baye will not get a pass in the paint due to his poor catching, regardless how wide open he is. However, his defense and rebounding was more than sufficient to justify a majority of playing time.
Tyler Roberson made an extended appearance with the 6th most minutes on the team, making the most of his time with 4 points and put up a very strong performance for an inexperience forward. The Other Freshman Tyler hit a jumper, drove it to the basket with conviction, and played decent defense to take advantage of the extra exposure.
We got to witness a new and improve Michael Gbinije, one who looks for his shot on offense to grab 8 points, including 2-3 three point shooting. Hopefully we continue to see this more aggressive style from him, as it made for a much more efficient offense. In what is becoming an interesting issue, Silent G's court time is being limited due to impressive performances from the two starters, but he is performing very well whenever he finds the court. It's a good problem to have, but we should find more playing time for Mike, as he gives this team a very helpful secondary option.
Dajuan Coleman showed up, and actually found a couple of minutes of playing time along with the second team as the game wound down. He grabbed an offensive rebound and fouled a guard who was driving to the basket. Classic Dajuan. We'll keep an eye on his minutes going forward.
I love Boeheim's timeout at the end of the first half to set the final offensive play, but too many times does it end with Ennis dribbling until there's 5 seconds, and then hoisting a contested three after the play fizzles.
Syracuse only lead turnover margin 8-7, but the Orange held a 41-25 edge in rebounding to keep the advantage in possessions and scoring opportunities.
ACC Network coverage was very good, even though they are still figuring out quite how to announce (and pronounce) the Orange. "Raheem Christmas"?
Saturday at 12:00 the Orange return to the Dome for a schizophrenic North Carolina team that just lost to a surprising Wake Forest squad, so it is probably thirsty for elite blood. After Ohio State's loss, Syracuse is one of 5 unbeaten, with Arizona facing a tough UCLA on Thursday.
This was a great victory, finally able to dominate a mediocre opponent and finish the game strong. Until next time fellow Juicers, Let's! Go! S! U!