Report Card: Dayton Ends Syracuse's Season, 55-53

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

The Dayton Flyers defeated the Syracuse Orange 55-53 to end SU's season in the 'third' round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Orange finish the campaign with a 28-6 record after starting out 25-0.

Well, hell.

By the time you read this, you’ll have seen approximately 1,700 articles on the Syracuse-Dayton game, particularly the last handful of possession for both sides. Unfortunately we’ll have all summer to run that debacle back, so let’s just get to the grades now and we’ll discuss the series of unfortunate events some other time.

Head of the Class

C.J. Fair: He went down swinging.

Despite a what could charitable be called a ‘rough’ shooting night (4-14), Fair almost singlehandedly kept SU in the game at the end of the first half and early in the second with his repeated rim attacks and 6-8 shooting from the free throw line. He also had 10 rebounds in his final appearance in an SU uniform. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough – and he didn’t get a ton of help.

“We didn’t react good to start the game off,” said Fair, when asked about the Orange’s poor shooting in the first half. We kind of got ourselves together, but it was too late. One or two possessions too late.”

Jim Boeheim added “He struggled a little, and he’s had some games where he’s struggled. In the second half he got it back and got it going to the basket. But it’s very hard to get to the basket against good defensive teams, and Dayton certainly is.”

Passing Grades

Tyler Ennis: Let’s be clear right now. End of game jump shot or no jump shot, Syracuse gets their asses kicked if it wasn’t for Tyler Ennis. The game wouldn’t have been close. There is no doubt in my mind.

Yes, Ennis’s decision to pull up for a 17-foot jumper when he had repeated success getting to the basket was a head-scratcher. But with a game-high 19 points, including 5-5 from the free throw line (and two of those were SUPER clutch with 25 seconds left), he keyed SU’s second half comeback with his fearless drives to the goal. I guess that’s what makes his shot selection on the second-to-last possession so curious. Maybe he was tired, and his legs were betraying him. Maybe he was feeling it and thought he had a good look. Maybe he didn’t realize how much time he had. I don’t know the answer. But I will tell you that he isn’t the reason SU lost that game, and anyone who says otherwise simply wasn’t paying attention.

Stay After School

Jerami Grant: Part of me hopes his back was acting up again, because if he played 34 minutes and scored only 4 measly points (on only 3 shots) and he WASN’T hurt? Oy. Oh, and he fouled out, too.

Grant may have an NBA body and NBA athleticism, but he has CYO offensive skills. The Flyers had his patented one dribble/spin move scouted out Saturday night, and every time Grant tried it he either got stripped or tossed up a wild shot. If he wants the quick cash and fame, he should leave for the draft this year. He’s a guaranteed first round pick. But if he wants a long, fruitful NBA career and the chance to get that second and third contract where the big money is, he should stay in college and work on his game. Ask Donte Greene or Jonny Flynn how it can work out if you leave before you’re ready.

Trevor Cooney: I think it's telling that in my first draft of this recap, it didn't really occur to me to include Cooney in the 'stay after school' section, as if his output (or lack thereof) wasn't a big surprise. But he was an offensive non-factor for pretty much the entire game. 2 points on 1-6 shooting (0-4 from three) in 25 minutes. No free throw attempts, no assists, no rebounds, no surprise. So which is the real Trevor? The Cornell/Notre Dame/Western Michigan guy? Or the guy we saw for a dozen or so other games this year? Aside from NBA Draft decisions, that may be the biggest question of this upcoming offseason.

Syracuse’s Offense: It’s this simple. When they run, and when they attack the basket, they get easy shots. Easy shots lead to easy scores. When they walk the ball up the floor, they don’t.

But even the best running team has to hit a jump shot once in a while, at the very least in order to keep the defense honest. SU was 0-10 from three. 0-10! They had 4 total assists. 4! Ennis had 3 of those! That means a LOT of standing around and shooting instead of passing and moving. Do my exclamation points properly portray how incredulous I am by these statistics!?!?!

“We had some good looks from the perimeter,” said Boeheim. “C.J. had a couple of good foul line jump shots that he usually makes. Tyler usually makes some of those. I think he missed 14 jump shots tonight. (Ennis was 7-21 from the floor). I think he went 7-7, 7-8 going to the basket. He just couldn’t get the jump shot going.”

“I thought once we started driving it, we got the shots we really needed to get. But overall it’s hard to win making (only) layups. At some point in time, you need to knock something down from the perimeter, and we didn’t.”

Final Grade: D

I give credit to the Orange for not giving up, for fighting through a horrendous first half offensive performance (37% FG, 57% FT, 0-5 from three). I tip my cap to C.J. Fair and Baye Keita for four classy years in SU uniforms. I hope Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis stay for another year and work on their games – for the benefit of themselves and the team. With or without them, this program will reload with a great recruiting class and be fun to watch again next year. I just wasn’t ready to look ahead to next year so soon.

For a more detailed recap and commentary on the game and Jim Boeheim’s postgame news conference, visit my Twitter feed by clicking here.
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