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Not just Fab can rebound

If the name of the game on Thursday against Asheville was "survive and advance," Saturday's matchup with Kansas State was more like "dominate and advance." Syracuse played with swagger, played with a chip on its shoulder, played like it had its season hanging in the balance. Because all of that was true. In the first half, Syracuse played just good enough (25-24 lead at the half), but then turned it on for the second half, and pulled away with the 75-59 victory to move onto the Sweet 16 in Boston.
  • It was easy for me to give the game ball to Rakeem Christmas. That's what it looked like in person, that's what some key stats look like, and given the situation of everything, I just think it's the right thing to do. After holding his own starting center on Thursday, Rak really came out and played like this was his thing. He grabbed eleven rebounds -- four of which came on the offensive glass -- not to mention his eight points on 4-7 shooting and his three blocks.
  • If you take that stat line, take away Rak's name, and just say the Syracuse center had those stats, you'd probably assume that was a typical Fab Melo game -- heck, even a pretty good Fab Melo game. To say that Rak had Fab numbers in a pivotal NCAA game was key to this victory. Has Rak replaced Fab? No, but this is all about what this team is: filling in, stepping up, and getting the job done.
  • And while we're talking about this team, while I gave the game ball to Rak, this truly was a great team effort. Four players in double-digit scoring, 13 assists, great shooting from the field, from three, and from the line. It was a pleasure to watch this one.
  • With 18 points, Dion Waiters was your leading scorer, shooting 5-9 from the field, and an impressive 7-7 from the charity stripe. 
  • Dion's "cousin" Scoop Jardine also played impressively, with 16 points on 5-9 shooting, including a perfect 3-3 from three and 3-4 from the foul line. Add in eight assists, five rebounds (and six turnovers) and you have another one of those Scoop being Scoop games where you take the bad with the good and call it a game. The rest of those stats are so good that I'm almost willing to look the other way on the six turnovers.
  • James Southerland came off the bench to continue his hot hand at shooting, with 15 points on 5-6 shooting, with 2-2 from three and 3-4 at the line. James also had six rebounds and three blocks. These stats are becoming commonplace, and need to continue for this team to continue having success.
  • Kris Joseph had a so-so day, with 11 points on only 2-7 shooting, but a promising 7-8 from the line. He also logged the most minutes on the court with 37.
  • CJ Fair only scored three, all from the line, in a game where he only saw 15 minutes. Another disappointing game for CJ. Brandon Triche didn't light up the scoreboard as well.
  • As expected, Kansas State was dominating on the offensive boards. Interestingly, of the 41 total rebounds, the Wildcats grabbed most of them offensively at 25. They owned the total margin 41-32.
  • Syracuse made good decisions on offense in this game. In total from the field, they shot 23-45 for 51.1%. More importantly -- and different from recent games -- their shot selection on threes was more disciplined, at 6-9 (a perfect 5-5 in the second half). Conversely, K-State threw up anything they could, at 21-67 for the game (31.3%) and 4-17 from three. Granted, the Wildcats had more shots because they grabbed the offensive rebounds and had second (or third or fourth) chances. But the ball wasn't going through the hoop, other than the 20 second-chance points they had.
  • Syracuse cashed in on those fastbreak transition situations that have made their own trademark lately, with 10 fastbreak points.
  • Also noteworthy is that the Syracuse bench outscored the K-State bench 33-0.
Saturday's victory propelled Syracuse into the Sweet 16 this Thursday in Boston. They will face Wisconsin, who beat many people's "sexy pick" Vanderbilt on Sunday night. Thursday's game will be at 7:15pm from the TD Garden. For those watching on TV, enjoy Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery on the call for CBS. For those of you lucky enough to watch in person, come say hi to Brian and me, as we'll be up in the rafters of section 325.

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