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Postgame Reactions from NCState & Bucknell

It would be the tale of two games for Dion
Syracuse has now played two games as the #1 team in the country.  It's just become so commonplace around here that we at Orange::44 almost decided to just not talk about the games.  You know, because it's awesome to be #1 and you're expected to win and so what's the sense of talking about it?
I'm kidding, obviously.  Let's get to the recaps.
December 17 at North Carolina State
This game got extra hype for a few reasons.  First, it was the first game for Syracuse as the #1 team in the country.  Second, it was Syracuse's "first true road game."  You put those two together and you have a recipe for disaster, at least based on recently-crowned #1s losing in their next road game.  I don't know how much farther you  (or ESPN) would want to take the useless-stat/tenuous-connection train there, but I'm disembarking right now.  And with that said, Syracuse cruised to an 88-72 victory.
  • Early action saw NCState pull off to a slight lead.  Then, with 8:16 left in the first half and the Wolfpack ahead 29-23, Syracuse woke up.  The Orange rattled off 23 unanswered points over the next 6:49 before NCState scored again.
  • It was an awesome stretch, which saw the likes of James Southerland and Dion Waiters really step up and carry the team.
  • Syracuse then started the second half extremely flat, even allowing the Wolfpack to come back and tie the game.  Luckily, a run around the 8-minute mark put Syracuse ahead for good.
  • Syracuse shot 57% from the floor, including 44% from three.  NCState was 58%, including 50% from three.
  • The leading scorer for Syracuse was Waiters with 22 points.  He also had three assists, a steal, and a block.
  • Dion and Kris Joseph played a team-high 32 minutes, and Kris was right behind Dion with 21 points. Still though, this was Dion's game.
  • But how nice is it for Joseph to have a quiet game and score 21 points?
  • Syracuse was out-rebounded 26-24, but it was clearly the turnover ratio that allowed Syracuse to go on those runs and build leads; Syracuse forced 18 turnovers while only coughing up the ball eight times
  • Lots of Orange down in Raleigh, and they let themselves be heard.  If you were there, kudos to you!
December 20 vs. Bucknell
I'll be honest: nothing about this game, before it happened, excited me.  Other than it being an opportunity to see the #1 team in action in person (and since I had season tickets), I really didn't want to go to the game.  I just did because, well, that's what I do.  And the other "17,000" who also attended the game, I think, had the same mindset as I did.  They were just there.  That "enthusiasm" carried over to the players, who were just there too.  But they won, 80-61, because, well, that's what they do.
  • Maybe it's because we're used to seeing Dion dominate games, so we get disappointed when he doesn't.  He didn't in this game: just four points and two rebounds in ten minutes on the floor.
  • One pleasant surprise was Rakeem Christmas.  'Tis the season, I guess, because he scored the first seven points for Syracuse.  On the night, Christmas scored ten points, had five rebounds, and two blocks in 14 minutes.
  • Up until now, Christmas had been the token starter, who got the hook early and whose minutes never amounted to much.  Was he becoming last year's Fab Melo?  Would it make sense to continue letting him start, even if he'd soon be pulled?  Would the confidence gained by staying in the starting lineup all season translate into the progress we saw from Melo from last year to now?
  • The other starters who stepped up were Kris Joseph, with the team high 17 points, and Scoop Jardine, adding 14.  Solid effort from both of them.
  • CJ Fair and Michael Carter-Williams were clutch off the bench, especially do-it-all MCW.  Their development in these non-conference games is vital to solidifying the strength and depth of the bench, which will make this team so deadly in Big East games, and provide a huge advantage come NCAA Tourney time.
  • Not much else to mention about this game.  It was kind of boring.  A win is a win.
And so, one more game remains before the Christmas (here, I mean the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, not our starting freshman), as the Tulane Green Wave visits the Dome on Thursday night.  That game will wrap up a stretch of three games where Syracuse plays a team whose nickname doesn't end in S (Wolfpack and Bison).  Earlier this season, Syracuse played the Stanford Cardinal and the Marshall Thundering Herd.  In Big East play, we'll of course see the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the St. John's Red Storm.  By season's end (pending postseason opponents), Syracuse sees seven teams lacking that S on the end of its name.  Useless stat, but interesting nonetheless.

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