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The View From Courtside: Syracuse Fries Providence in Tuneup for Georgetown

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With a record crowd and longtime rival Georgetown looming Saturday, the Syracuse Orange first welcomed the Providence Friars to the Carrier Dome for a mid-week matchup.

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SU was tasked with not overlooking the Friars, who were coming into town on a four-game win streak and looking for revenge for a six-point loss to SU on January 9. Would the Orange get caught in a classic trap game?

Well, no. They didn’t. Here’s my report card from courtside as SU cruised to an 84-59 win:

Head of the Class:

Michael Carter-Williams. It has become abundantly clear that as SU’s guards go, so goes the entire team. On Saturday Brandon Triche led the Orange to a win at Seton Hall with a career-high 29 points. Wednesday night it was MCW’s turn to take the reins. He finished with a respectable 15 points on 5-8 from the floor and 5-6 from the line, but earned his kudos with 12 assists, many of them on pretty alley-oops to Fair, Christmas, and Southerland. Perhaps more importantly, those 12 assists came with only two turnovers, despite the game's elevated pace. It was MCW’s first game with double-digit assists since the Rutgers win on January 2, and stopped a run that saw his nation-leading assist average slide from 9.2 to 8.0 over the course of a dozen conference games.

Passing Grades:

James Southerland: In his best performance since his return from ineligibility, Southerland dropped 20 points in perhaps the most efficient shooting exhibition of any Orange man this season. He shot 7-8 from the floor, 3-3 from three, and 3-4 from the line in a tidy 26 minutes of action, showing why he was so sorely missed during his six games on the bench.

C.J. Fair: On any other night, Fair might have the spotlight to himself. But Wednesday he would have to be content to share it. Fair pitched in another workmanlike effort, putting up a 20-10 for his ninth double-double of the season. That doesn’t take into account two other games where he fell just one rebound short. Fair continues to impress me with the variety in which he scores, and vs. Providence showed off the depth to his game with buckets from the perimeter, mid-range, driving to the rim, and getting to the line (7-8 on the night). This season’s MVP continues to be the team’s rock, consistently putting up good numbers each and every outing.

Stay After School:

Interior Defense: This is certainly nitpicking, but the most glaring flaw I noticed Wednesday night was SU’s penchant for relaxing on defense and allowing Providence’s big men to sneak in behind the zone for decent looks at the rim. It happened on several occasions over the course of the game, most when the Orange were up big and coasting along in the second half. However, SU did manage to recover enough to block seven Friar shots, which when added to their eight steals sparked the Orange fast break and contributed to a 31-4 run to end the first half.

Final Grade: A-

Guard Michael Carter-Williams speaks to reporters in the SU locker room after the game.

Jeremy Ryan is a writer/editor for CNYcentral.com in Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyRyan44.