0 Comments Published on 11.28.2013 by John Brennan
|This pretty much sums it up; no other caption needed|
Winning the EA Sports Maui Invitational, in the big scheme of things, is nice. It gets you some nice hardware; it looks nice on your resume; it gives you the opportunity to hang out in some nice weather. Nice. But in the moment, it's so much more. So this is what was on the line Wednesday night, as the Baylor Bears and the Syracuse Orange battled it out for all those niceties. Syracuse got out to a quick start, but Baylor battled back, hitting some deep threes. In fact, much of the first half proceeded in like fashion, with each team going on runs. But each time Syracuse ran, it would increase its lead a bit more, making it that more difficult for Baylor to even the score. Indeed, it would be too much in the end, as Syracuse hung on for the victory and the championship, 74-67.
- One of the things I take away from Syracuse's performance in Maui is that these guys are playing as a team. They have some great playmakers who are putting up some great stats, but it's the playmakers' teammates who are creating the situations for those playmakers.
- CJ Fair. ACC Preseason Player of the Year. He sure looks like it. In Wednesday's title game, CJ scored 24 points on 10-17 from the floor, 2-3 from three, and 2-2 from the line. He also grabbed three steals.
- Jerami Grant continued his great play, with 19 points on 8-12 shooting. He is just such a dynamic player, and I think him being on the court makes everyone around him better.
- Tyler Ennis had another great performance. 11 points, nine assists, four steals, playing all 40 minutes. Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough noted this during the broadcast, and Jim Boeheim confirmed it after the game: Tyler Ennis isn't playing like a freshman anymore.
- Trevor Cooney keeps coming up big, too, with 11 points. The confidence he is playing with now is so important for him to continue his success.
- Even Rakeem Christmas had a better game than he has had in a while. While he only chipped in seven points, he grabbed five rebounds and found himself involved in a lot of plays at both ends of the court in 31 minutes of play. Boeheim recognized that if Baylor had a chance to win, it would have to get good looks at the basket from outside -- and that keeping Christmas in for his length would be an asset for the Syracuse defense.
- Another big thing to take away from Maui: free throw shooting. Traditionally a wart for Syracuse, the Orange followed up Tuesday's outstanding free throw performance with an almost equally impressive one: 10-11 for 90.9%. I'm not sure what has inspired the team in this regard, or if the rims in Maui really were soft, but let's all hope this trend continues!
- Syracuse was again out-rebounded, 33-21.
- Syracuse ended with 36 points in the paint, against a tough Baylor defense with a lot going on under the basket. Some of the plays -- notably Jerami Grant catching the ball under the basket, chucking it up behind him while he was fouled, and made the basket -- were exciting to watch.
- Baylor's 20 turnovers led to 24 Syracuse points.
So there you have it. Syracuse University wins the Maui Invitational. CJ Fair wins tournament MVP. Jerami Grant makes the all-tournament team. Big props to everyone! But I think it's fair to state that the Syracuse team to leave Maui is a much better team than the one that arrived in Maui. That momentum needs to continue into a tougher-than-usual December, with the likes of Indiana, St. John's, and Villanova on the schedule before we jump into ACC games.
And on behalf of Brian, I thank you all for reading Orange::44, for your fandom of Syracuse, and wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!