February 16, 2014
Story and Videos by Jack Fitzsimmons Photo courtesy suathletics.com Rakeem Christmas came up with a key steal off a late-game trap, and C.J. Fair scored on a goaltending call on the ensuring break with 6.7 seconds left to lift the Orange to a 56-55 victory over North Carolina State Saturday night at the Carrier Dome. It was […]
Story and Videos by Jack Fitzsimmons
Photo courtesy suathletics.com
Rakeem Christmas came up with a key steal off a late-game trap, and C.J. Fair scored on a goaltending call on the ensuring break with 6.7 seconds left to lift the Orange to a 56-55 victory over North Carolina State Saturday night at the Carrier Dome. It was the second stunning win for SU in as many games after Tyler Ennis’ buzzer beater to beat Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Syracuse extended its school-record winning streak to 25 games and maintained a half-game lead in the ACC standings (12-0 vs 12-1 for Virginia), while the Wolfpack dropped to 16-9 (6-6 ACC).
The win for Syracuse ensures it will remain #1 in the polls, but for N.C. State, the loss will resonate as a missed opportunity to add a signature win to its tenuous NCAA Tournament resume.
A chance missed
N.C. State certainly had the chances to leave the Carrier Dome with the win. The Wolfpack led for much of the back-and-forth second half, and never trailed by more than one point over the last 23:45 of the game. Unfortunately for the Coach Mark Gottfried’s team it only managed to score three points over the final 3:53, with those coming on free throws by Ralston Turner (13 points, 3-8 from three) with just more than a minute left.
ACC leading-scorer T.J. Warren was spectacular in defeat (23 points) and Kyle Washington recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds). But after the top three scorers, the rest of the Wolfpack combined for just five points in 102 combined minutes of playing time.
Even though the Orange won, the game was not particularly pretty offensively for Syracuse either. The team shot just over 35-percent from the field, and connected on just two of 12 attempts from three-point range.
Tyler Ennis may have finally reminded fans that he is, in fact, a true freshman with four turnovers, four fouls, and only nine points. Trevor Cooney hit two three-pointers in the first half, but finished with a rather pedestrian eight points. And even though he would eventually win the game for the Orange, C.J. Fair struggled for most of the night (5-16 from the field, 0-3 from beyond the arc, 1-2 at the line). To his credit, Fair was more than willing to take responsibility for the low offensive output.
“We gotta do better on offense,” he said after the game. “I think it starts with me…If I get things going earlier, throughout the game I think it makes my teammates’ jobs easier.”
Christmas in February
In a game that featured three potential First Team All-ACC players (Syracuse’s Fair and Ennis and N.C. State’s Warren), the player of the game was unquestionably the Orange’s Rakeem Christmas. Christmas led Syracuse with 14 points and also recorded 12 rebounds and seven blocks. Most importantly, it was his steal at the end of the game that set up the game-winning layup.
“We keep our composure all the time,” Christmas said about the decisive play. “We don’t let things get to us, and we just want to go out there with our defense and see what happens from there.”
Running the table
Syracuse is now only six wins away from completely a perfect regular season, but the road won’t get any easier. First up, the Orange will play host to a Boston College team that is probably tougher than the record indicates. The Eagles held a five-point lead with about ten minutes to play the last time these two met on January 13th in Chestnut Hill, before a 16-1 run that eventually led to a 10-point Syracuse victory. That game will tip-off at 7pm on Wednesday at the Carrier Dome and be televised on ESPN 2.
After the home game against BC, the Orange will play four of the last five games on the road. The next two Saturdays pose particularly interesting obstacles for the Orange: first at Durham for a rematch with #8 Duke at Cameron Indoor on the 22nd, and then in Charlottesville on March 1 to take on #17 Virginia in a game that could decide the ACC regular season title.
Rakeem Christmas Postgame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrioXXajxIQ
C.J. Fair Postgame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmX71ykhuo0
Trevor Cooney Postgame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he6Xdv0dqIE