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Not exactly a merry Christmas (sorry)

Jim Boeheim stressed after Saturday's impressive win at #1 Louisville that his players needed to quickly put the win behind them and focus on Cincinnati, who was coming to the Dome on Monday. The Bearcats had their own excitement on Saturday (albeit a few hours later) with a thrilling overtime win over Marquette. Those late day Saturday finishes, coupled with an earlier than usual Big Monday tip at 3:30pm led to a very quick turn around for both teams. This was a close game throughout, with neither team ever climbing to a huge lead (the biggest lead was Cincy by seven several times). Syracuse led much of the first half, while Cincinnati led much of the second half. In the end, it was a clutch game-tying 3-pointer from Michael Carter-Williams, and then a go-ahead tip-in by (CJ Fair?) with 13 seconds left to seal the victory for Syracuse over Cincinnati, 57-55.

  • This game was, at several times, quite difficult to watch. It was often times quite slow-paced, as the Bearcats had no problem winding down the shot clock on each possession, only to either chuck up a three or draw a lazy foul.
  • Those long Cincy possessions were compounded by the Bearcats grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. This led to 12 second chance points.
  • While Syracuse didn't play phenomenal basketball in the first half, they played well enough to not only keep with the Bearcats, but to have a halftime lead. This was due, in large part, to the awful first half effort from Cincy. They just couldn't hit the bottom of the net. They shot 20.69% from the field in the first half (6-29), including 22.22% from three (4-18).
  • Those Bearcat numbers increased greatly in the second half (12-26, 6-14 from three), which put them in command for much of that half.
  • Just in case you're doing the math at home, let me check you on those three-point numbers: ten of 32! So, give some credit to the Syracuse zone for forcing the threes, especially in the first half when they weren't falling quite so well.
  • The zone eventually had some weaknesses, notably rebounding. For a while, Boeheim went with a 3-guard lineup in an attempt to spark the offense. That didn't necessarily work and, with the smaller players, the Orange weren't grabbing the defensive rebounds they should have been grabbing. This led to the aforementioned second chance points for Cincinnati.
  • And then, it was almost as if Boeheim looked up, saw he had been playing 3 guards, and said "How long have I been playing three guards?" and promptly went to a more traditional lineup.
  • For Syracuse, MCW led the way (especially down the stretch) with a team-high 16 points, seven assists, and five rebounds.
  • CJ Fair and Brandon Triche each chipped in 13 points. Trevor Cooney, in those extended guard minutes, racked up eight points on a couple made threes.
  • Fair once again played all 40 minutes; MCW and Triche clocked 36 minutes, and Jerami Grant played 28.
  • Grant played another solid game: five points, seven rebounds, and a block. He was active in the zone again, and made his presence known. He's maturing quite nicely in his new 6th-man role. While he's not the same offensive & outside shooting threat as James Southerland -- this team is looking for that elsewhere -- but Grant is providing for the team where he can.
  • Baye Moussa Keita is also making the most of his minutes lately. In 22 on Monday, Keita failed to score but was real active on the defensive end, grabbing three boards, two blocks, and a steal.
  • While Rakeem Christmas had a few flashes of greatness, he also had a few, uh, bad flashes too. This inconsistency finds him on the bench, along with fellow starter DaJuan Coleman, who just isn't contributing much of anything in his few minutes of playing time.
  • Coleman is falling into the same role Fab Melo had his freshman year: get the token start, play a few minutes on a short leash, and then get comfy on the bench. Hey, it worked for Melo.
So it wasn't a pretty win, but a win is a win. And so, Syracuse now has the rest of the week off before traveling to Philadelphia one last time as a Big East member to play Villanova. Orange::44 will be on hand at the Wells Fargo Center to take in the end of an era of some of the more recent great Big East games. The Wildcats have been down this year, and Syracuse handled them in the Dome a couple weekends ago, but this is a Big East. You never know.

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