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Syracuse 85 - Long Beach State 67: Five Big Takeaways

What did we learn in yesterday's SU-LBSU game?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange won their second consecutive game on Sunday, toughing out a 85-67 defeat of the Long Beach State 49ers. Here are my five big takeaways:

1. Michael Gbinije, on some nights, can be THE guy.

Michael Gbinije had his fingerprints all over Sunday's win. He scored a season-high 24 points (his previous best was 18), dished out a game-high eight assists, and grabbed six rebounds. On a team that, to this point, doesn't have a great player, it's nice to see that Gbinije is capable of having a game like that, especially against a pretty decent Long Beach State team.

2. Christmas comes late!

Excuse the bad pun, but Rakeem Christmas was that good yesterday. He had 24 points -- just one shy of his season-high -- to pair with 10 rebounds, good for his fourth double-double of the year. Christmas has now scored in double figures in 11 of Syracuse's 12 games, and while it certainly has something to do with three of the top four scorers from last year's team no longer being here, there's something to be said for the strides Rak has made offensively. Hopefully he keeps this up against ACC competition. I think he will.

3. The three-pointers continue to fall.

Since going ice cold in a loss to St. John's earlier this month, the Orange have suddenly found their collective three-point stroke. They're now shooting better than 46 percent from beyond the arc in their last four games, a vast improvement from their 3-of-22 performance against the Johnnies. Syracuse likely and almost certainly won't shoot this well all season long, but at least we're seeing that this is a team that CAN make shots.

4. Not what we want to see: a slow start.

After managing such quick starts against both Villanova and Colgate, Syracuse struggled early on Sunday. The Orange fell behind 14-4 in the first half and led by only four points at halftime (and would've only led by one if not for a successful Trevor Cooney half court heave at the buzzer) before pulling away in the second half. Though we've seen less of them recently, slow starts were pretty frequent for 'Cuse in the beginning of the season. With ACC play looming, now would be a bad time for that to become a theme once more.

5. Maybe Syracuse is learning how to finish.

The thing about Syracuse's 8-4 record that is either especially promising or especially discouraging, depending on how you look at it, is that the Orange could easily be 11-1. Aside from the loss to Cal, they've had victories in their sight in each of their losses and have simply failed to close. While Long Beach State isn't of the same caliber as Villanova or St. John's, it seems like Syracuse might be learning how to finish games. The Orange led by only three with 15 minutes remaining on Sunday but quickly extended that lead to double digits. Once they did, they never looked back and never allowed the 49ers to go on another run. It's only one game, but that could be a sign of growth. Stay tuned.