|CJ Fair RISE AND FIRE ala Gus Johnson|
On Saturday night in the Round of 32, Syracuse battled California. I think battled is a good word, because it was a long, protracted fight where, if you let your guard down, they'd be beating you. That was the kind of game this was. Syracuse gave up the initial basket to the Golden Bears, but then scored the next eleven points before Cal got back on the board. Syracuse never trailed after that initial 2-0 score, and grew the lead into double digits several times, but you never really felt that Syracuse "had this in the bag." Ultimately it was another outstanding effort by the defense that kept Cal at bay, and Syracuse won the game 66-60 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in Washington, DC.
- CJ Fair. I always write about how consistent he is, how he's probably the best player on the team. And he keeps proving me right. A fantastic 18 point effort from CJ on 6-14 shooting, six rebounds, two steals, and a great block into the glass. He again set the tone early, scoring most of his points in the first half.
- James Southerland also came to play, but it wasn't necessarily his outside presence that made him a great player. He spent a lot of time inside, in and around the paint. A 14-point effort, but only six came from beyond the arc. He also had nine rebounds and four steals.
- Michael Carter-Williams had a solid game, 12 points but only three assists.
- Baye Moussa Keita had himself a game. Logging 24 minutes (compared to Rakeem Christmas's 16), Keita scored 11 points, including 7-10 from the line, and chipped in seven rebounds. You still saw some of those "oven mitts" moments, but the good far outweighed the bad here.
- Brandon Triche had a quiet eight points on a horrid 1-8 shooting, playing all 40 minutes. When he's on, he's on, but when he's off, he's off.
- Jerami Grant & Trevor Cooney saw limited action and had no big contributions other than giving the others a breather.
- Syracuse scored 20 points off 17 Cal turnovers.
- Syracuse only had seven assists.
- Cal outscored Syracuse 36-34 in the second half.
Short & sweet recap this morning. The "home court advantage" for Cal never really materialized in this game, so credit Syracuse for just going out there and playing ball. But now, Syracuse gets to come back east, regroup and home, and head back down to the Verizon Center in Washington. While their last visit there two weeks ago was quite forgettable, Thursday should be a completely different atmosphere and under completely different circumstances. Syracuse will play the winner of today's game between 1-seed Indiana and 9-seed Temple.