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Before first blood was drawn. Literally.

Syracuse, NY was hit by a lake effect snowstorm this past Saturday. It was cold, windy, and several inches of snow fell. Meanwhile, the basketball team was already in Maui, Hawaii preparing for the EA Sports Maui Invitational. I've been to Hawaii before, you're probably not getting better weather than there, especially considering the alternative. But when it comes to basketball, none of that matters. What matters is how you perform on the court, and the Orange was on display against the Minnesota Gophers in Monday's second quarterfinal game. Much has been said about CJ Fair getting whacked in the face while driving in for a dunk -- and no foul being called -- but the way CJ responded in his play after getting some quick first-aid for the huge bloody gash on his face is what the real story is here. Syracuse carried a 39-36 lead into halftime, and never relinquished it in the second half; the Orange beat the Gophers 75-67.

  • Not only did CJ Fair show his tough-as-nails Superman-like skills, but he put in the stats to make him player of the game. He was 7-15 from the floor for 16 points, and pulled down ten rebounds for a double-double in 38 minutes of play. That's right, blood only caused him to miss two minutes.
  • The other impressive (and surprising) performance was delivered by DaJuan Coleman. 3-4 for nine points (including 3-6 from the line), four rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. It's been a good long while since we could say Coleman had a really good game, so it's nice to see him fill in the box score.
  • Trevor Cooney found his way to the scoreboard early and often. He hit a three for the first points of the game, and was shooting with the confidence you want to see. He ended with 15 points on 5-12 shooting (5-11 from three), and was also quite active on defense at the top of the 2-3 zone.
  • Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant were the other two Orange players in double digit scoring, each dropping 12.
  • Syracuse shot an uncharacteristic 22-27 from the free throw line, good for 81.5% for those of you who like numbers like that.
  • The ESPN announcing crew seemed obsessed with Minnesota's Elliott Eliason. Maybe there was something to it, as once he got benched due to foul trouble, it really left the Gopher interior open for exploitation from Syracuse.
  • While Syracuse never gave up the lead after halftime, there were ten lead changes in the first half. You can never underestimate how important having back and forth games is for a team to build up its resilience. Especially in a multi-day/multi-game tournament such as Maui, as most of the games will be like this.
Syracuse advances to the semifinals to face the winner of the first quarterfinal, California. That game can be seen Tuesday at 7:00pm EST on ESPN. Fair warning: I'm probably gonna put a twitter block on the phrase "get back in this," so don't plan on me seeing your lame, dated, overused jokes. But, to each his own. At any rate, check back here before that game for Brian's preview. He correctly picked Syracuse to beat Minnesota by eight, so maybe he's on to something.

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