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Syracuse 86 - Wake Forest 83 (OT): Five Big Takeaways

What did we learn last night?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In their first game without Chris McCullough, the Syracuse Orange squeaked out an 89-86 overtime victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Here are five big takeaways:

1. Even in foul trouble, Rakeem can do THAT.

Rakeem Christmas played arguably his best game in a Syracuse uniform on Tuesday, scoring a career-high 35 points and finishing one rebound short of a double-double. According to's Mike Waters, his 35 points were the most of any Orange player since Demetrius Nichols scored 37 against St. John's nearly eight years ago.

And despite picking up his fourth foul with just over five minutes to play in regulation, Christmas managed not only to avoid fouling out but also to score 12 points the rest of the way. The center has been one of the ACC's most consistently dominant players all season long, but if there's one concern with Christmas, it's his tendency to get into foul trouble. Last night showed that, even when he's at risk of fouling out at any moment, he's capable of having a strong impact on both ends.

2. Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije must continue to step up.

Without McCullough for the remainder of the season, Syracuse's top scorers will be forced to shoulder even more of the offensive responsibility moving forward. Obviously, much of that will be up to Christmas, but Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije must also take on increased roles. They certainly did that last night, combining to take 29 shots (including 17 three-pointers) and score 38 points. Now more than ever, the Orange will need those types of performances. However, they won't be able to afford many halves in which Gbinije scores only one point, as was the case in the first half on Tuesday night.

3. Jim Boeheim doesn't seem to trust Kaleb Joseph.

Jim Boeheim, who has long been known to favor upperclassmen, clearly isn't comfortable with point guard Kaleb Joseph playing down the stretch of close games. Joseph watched from the bench for the final 16 minutes of regulation last night and for all of overtime. Boeheim opted instead to go with sophomore Ron Patterson, who finished 1-of-6 with three points but did make a key three-pointer to help ignite Syracuse's run.

4. Tyler Roberson: less shooting, more rebounding.

Tyler Roberson struggled with shooting last night, finishing 3-of-11 from the field. But when he stopped looking for his shot and focused instead on getting after the ball, it helped the Orange immensely. He had 10 rebounds, including two offensive boards in overtime that extended possessions and led both times to Syracuse points.

Roberson has been inconsistent as a scorer this season, but he's proven that he can finish with double digit rebounding totals on any given night. That's something that SU will desperately need, especially now that its thin frontcourt has become even thinner.

5. Syracuse is capable of overcoming second half deficits.

Syracuse started ACC play with back-to-back tight wins at Virginia Tech and at Georgia Tech, but in neither of games did the Orange have to overcome serious deficits. So when Boeheim's group fell behind by as many as nine points in the second half last night, it was only natural to wonder if it was too large of a margin to fight back from. But the Orange dug deep and, thanks largely to Christmas's dominance and to the three-point barrage put forth by Cooney and Gbinije, managed to fight all the way back and win the game in overtime. As ACC play continues, a win like that could certainly be something for Syracuse to build upon.