|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.
|This picture says it all.|
For the Seth Davis's and other prognosticators out there, this was a hot pick for Montana to upset Syracuse. In our hearts, we knew our Orange just couldn't lose to the Grizzlies, but in our heads we knew that possibility was there: Syracuse had such a poor February/beginning of March, had been so inconsistent, and now had to travel 3000 miles across the country and deal with the possible distractions of more news of NCAA investigations. None of that should have mattered, but you know as well as I do that any one of those things, let alone put it all together, could spell disaster for this Syracuse team. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Syracuse shot out of the gate chasing the rabbit like it hadn't eaten in a week. These players were hungry, determined, and knew they wanted to grab and early need and not look back, other than to see how small Montana had gotten in the rear view mirror. So that's exactly how this game transpired... you know, once it actually started at 10:41pm EDT. A high octane Orange offense combined with a shut-it-down defense reminiscent of a few years ago, led Syracuse to a commanding 81-34 victory over Montana.
- Hello Brandon Triche! You were the team (and game) leading scorer with 20 points, on an extremely efficient 5-6 shooting, 2-2 from three, 8-10 from the line. Brandon was also active on defense, with four steals.
- CJ Fair was next with 13 points on 5-8 shooting, 1-1 from three, 2-3 at the line, three rebounds and two assists. Not really impressive numbers, mind you, but CJ was responsible for the first six Syracuse points, and was himself outscoring Montana for much of the first half. CJ's great play early allowed Syracuse to build its lead, which it never relinquished.
- DaJuan Coleman -- yes, that DaJuan Coleman -- played 15 minutes for 12 points on 4-9 from the floor and six rebounds. Granted, it was essentially garbage time once he got on the floor, and he towered over the Grizzlies, but you still gotta put the ball in the bucket. He did. And it was glorious.
- Solid effort from Michael Carter-Williams as well. While he onnly scored four points, he dished nine assists and grabbed eight rebounds, while only turning the ball over twice. He was also responsible for three steals on the other end. That's what you want from your starting point guard.
- James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas each scored nine points, and used their size and length to gain the advantage over Montana, no matter the situation.
- Trevor Cooney deserves his own bullet here (Thug Cooney). In significant minutes (18) he scored seven points, including a three and a big slam dunk. Who knew he had it in him?
- Fellow freshman Jerami Grant also saw big minutes (22) and though he only scored five points, was real active on the glass with eight rebounds.
- Not a big game for Baye Moussa Keita, only a bucket and a couple rebounds in eight minutes.
- Walk ons. In an NCAA Tournament game. This happened.
- Your complete list of double-digit scorers for Montana:
- Your complete list of Grizzlies with more than five points:
- But in all seriousness, the Montana offense just had no answer for the zone, no answer for the size of Syracuse. The Grizzlies shot a measly 20.4% from the field, were out-rebounded 40-33, and just couldn't get anything positive going.
- A good shooting team can beat the zone by the three. We all know this. So does everyone else. That explains why Montana had 31 attempts from three. Four of them found the bottom of the net.
- Syracuse led in some important statistical categories, including points off turnovers (17-4), second chance points (14-5), and points in the paint (38-12). Given the large margin of victory, none of these stats should surprise you.
|Farewell MSG & Big East Tournament. We'll always have the memories...|
Gravy. That's all this game was supposed to be, after Friday night's overtime win over Georgetown. But for Syracuse, gravy quickly became caviar after jumping out to a huge lead against the Louisville Cardinals in the Big East Tournament Championship game on Saturday night. Syracuse shot 45% in the first half, including 6-12 from three, and carried a commanding 35-22 lead into the locker room. Louisville, who shot 26% and a mere 2-8 from three, it seemed just didn't have what it would take to mount a comeback, even if they regrouped. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. The Cardinals remembered how to play basketball, shot 53% in the second half, and totally shut down any attempt at Syracuse running an offense. Outscoring Syracuse 56-26 in the second half, Louisville becomes the Big East Tournament Champions, winning 78-61.
- CJ Fair was the player of the game for the Orange, and its leading scorer, with 21 points on 7-10 shooting, 4-5 from three, and seven rebounds. He also added a block and two steals in 38 minutes of play.
- Michael Carter-Williams was an assist short of a double double, with eleven points and nine assists, and also grabbed five rebounds. However, on the negative side, MCW turned over the ball four times, and was a disappointing 2-9 from the free throw line. Many of these free throw attempts were in the second half as the Syracuse offense was stagnant and Louisville was on a ridiculous run. Missing the front end of 1-and-1s just doesn't bode well in making a comeback.
- Brandon Triche rounds out the double digit scoring for Syracuse, with 10 points on a poor 3-12 shooting. Brandon committed seven turnovers and had gone back to the Brandon we were seeing at the end of the regular season.
- Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita again shared time, with the lion share going to BMK. Ten points, nine rebounds, and five blocks between the two of them.
- Due to poor guard play and James Southerland getting in foul trouble, Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant saw more playing time than they had been used to seeing lately. Unfortunately their 26 combined minutes only translated to one rebound, one steal, and zero points. These two guys were asked to step up when their teammates couldn't play, and just didn't get the job done.
- A few notable stats: Louisville had the advantage in points off turnovers 32-11; in second chance points 22-14; and in bench points, 41-8.
- It was easily the worst second-half collapse in recent memory for Syracuse, possibly in the 14 years I've actively been following the team.
|A decent crowd of 6292 took a break from basketball to take in lacrosse.|
I've really hit a couple of home runs when it comes to attending Syracuse lacrosse games this season. Back on March 1 I had the pleasure to watch Syracuse run all over a really good Virginia team. Saturday, Syracuse faced #4 Johns Hopkins in what would become a signature win for the Orange. It was a fast and furious first quarter for Syracuse, gaining a 6-1 lead. The Blue Jays woke up in the second quarter to only be down 8-6 at the half. However, Syracuse dominated the rest of the game and won by a final of 13-8.
Hopkins drew first blood with a man-up goal at the 11:50 mark. From there, Syracuse turned it on. Scores came from Luke Cometti, two by Henry Schoonmaker, Hakeem Lecky, Scott Loy, and Derek Maltz. It was exciting to watch, especially because it seemed Hopkins just had no answer for it. The fast start foreshadowed the fast start the basketball team had later Saturday against Louisville, but lacrosse had a much better result.
The second quarter saw the Blue Jays make a comeback, with five goals by three players (Wells Stanwick with three). Scoring really slowed down in the second half, only seeing seven goals compared to the first half's 14. That certainly helped Syracuse, as the defense stepped up and a change in the net from Bobby Wardwell to Dominic Lamolinara secured the victory. Lamolinara had five saves in the second, to Wardwell's three in the first.
This game wasn't without its Syracuse faults, though. The Orange committed seven penalties, which led to Hopkins going 3-6 on EMOs. The last penalty came as time expired, so Hopkins won't reap those benefits. Hopkins committed four penalties, but each time was able to shut down the Syracuse EMO unit and hold them scoreless. Hop held a slight advantage on face-offs at 14-10, but it was nice to see Chris Daddio out there making things difficult for Hop at the X.
With the new polls out, Syracuse has moved up nicely, to #4 in both the Coaches Poll and the Inside Lacrosse poll. The real deal Orange now move on to play at Providence on Tuesday night, where it appears there is only local-Syracuse radio coverage with no TV coverage. The biggest thing to look for, other than "can Syracuse maintain its high level of play" is the situation in the goal. Lamolinara made a great case for some more time, but does Wardwell lose his starting job?
|Syracuse students agree: we need to leave the Big East Conference with a championship!|
When I was pouting at Clyde's last week after seeing Syracuse only put up 39 points against Georgetown, if you had told me Syracuse would be playing in the Big East Tournament championship game tonight, I would have told you you were crazy. But the Orange team we've seen this week is a lot different than that mess we saw in DC. So the stage is set for tonight: Louisville won its semifinal game against the Notre Dame
|Syracuse students agree: Georgetown wants to just throw us a bone.|
While not rare, it's certainly not a common occurrence to play an opponent three times in a season. But in the Big East Swan Song, it just had to be that Syracuse would see Georgetown thrice. The first of the Big East Tournament semifinals Friday night will feature the Orange versus the Hoyas. With Georgetown already having two victories over Syracuse this season, a look at this game brings up a number of possible topics, the following of which I have rejected:
- Third time's a charm
- It's difficult to beat a team three times in a season
- Beware the Ides of March
- This is basically a home game for Syracuse
|Jimmy didn't like the officiating. Nobody liked the officiating.|
Before Syracuse and Pittsburgh tipped off in Thursday's second quarterfinal, Georgetown beat Cincinnati. And so, it was decided: the winner of Syracuse/Pitt would face the Hoyas in Friday night's semifinal. With that backdrop, Thursday's game took on more meaning. Well, probably just for us fans; the team knew they had a big job to do first: Beat Pitt. What Syracuse lacked in the first half against Seton Hall (i.e. a lead), it had no problem securing and maintaining against Pitt. Led by, guess who, James Southerland, the Orange came out swinging and grew a 13-point lead at halftime, 40-27. Ball movement was good, shots were falling, and the defense was active and created scoring opportunities for the Syracuse offense. The second half wasn't quite so friendly; the Panthers started hitting their shots, attacking the zone, and crashing the boards. Meanwhile the Syracuse offense was slow out of the gate in the second half. The 13-point lead many times became ten, or seven, or five. But each time, Syracuse was able to hit a clutch three or string together a couple scores to keep the Panthers at bay. Though it got real dicey at the end, Syracuse was aided by a clutch steal by Michael Carter-Williams and a bunch of points from him, to earn a win over the Panthers 62-59.
- James Southerland. He's a senior and he's giving it everything he's got out there in New York. Another amazing scoring performance to follow yesterday's gem, James scored 20 on 7-10 shooting, including a perfect 6-6 on threes. Some sort of BET record for two games. Add to that six rebounds, two steals, and an assist, and James is really earning his starting position and 36 minutes to go along with it.
- CJ Fair had another CJ Fair game. As expected, I could pretty much copy & paste my comments from most previous recaps on him, but here's his official line: 5-16 shooting for 13 points, including three threes, seven rebounds, a couple blocks and a couple assists.
- Brandon Triche had another pretty solid offensive game, limiting his shots to the more makeable ones: 5-11 for 12 points, with two threes made.
- MCW was a bit of a non-issue in the points category until the final stretch, when he basically single-handedly kept Syracuse in the lead. His final line was 11 points on only 2-4 shooting, but 6-8 from the line. Seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals were great, but his six turnovers were not so great. They made you worry early on, but luckily Syracuse was able to not let the TOs hurt them too much.
- Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita again split time as the big man, with the clock today favoring Keita. Christmas fouled out. The two combined for four points and two rebounds. Essentially a non-factor at both ends of the court. It's clear Boeheim must be of the opinion that DaJuan Coleman would be a liability out there at this point.
- A few key statistical categories won by Syracuse: field goal percentage, 46-37; 3-point percentage 63-31; assists 14-11.
- Oddly enough, Syracuse was out-rebounded by Pitt 40-28, but the disparity was on the offensive boards, where Pitt held the advantage 20-8.
- The officials were horrible, both ways. Neither team had an advantage because of it, but it's aggravating as a college basketball fan to see such experienced officials flat out miss or get wrong so many calls.
|Syracuse students agree: playing Pitt on a neutral court is way better than at the Pete.|
With its win in the Second Round of the Big East Tournament over Seton Hall, Syracuse earned a right to move onto the quarterfinals to play Pittsburgh. The Panthers, who with the #4 seed get the double bye to Thursday, have been off since Saturday. They carry a four-game winning streak into this game, along with the confidence of already having beaten Syracuse once this season. But that was a home game at the Peterson Events Center back on February 2. This will not be another Groundhog's Day -- especially because all of us in the Northeast know how dead ass wrong that groundhog was this year. Pitt's player to watch is Tray Woodall, who leads the team with 11.7 points per game and 5.3 assists per game and pretty much owned Syracuse earlier this season. In meaningless historical stats, Pitt has won 14 of the last 18 games against Syracuse, while Pitt has lost the last three times they have had the double bye in the Big East Tournament. For Syracuse, James Southerland needs to keep the hot hand, with the help from CJ Fair and a rejuvenated Brandon Triche. A Syracuse team that can score is a Syracuse team that can win. I actually see this as one of the most evenly matched games of Championship Week, and it'll come down to who has the ability to make the bigger plays down the stretch. The winner of this game earns a spot in the semifinals against the winner of Thursday's noon game between Georgetown and Cincinnati. Pitt-Syracuse follows that, in the neighborhood of 2:30pm on ESPN, ESPN3, and the WatchESPN app if it's not being crappy again. In a tight one that could potentially go into overtime, Syracuse wins by four points.
|James found his shot!|
- Player of the Game honors go to, of course, James Southerland. James was 7-11 (including 6-9 from three) for 20 points, starting the game and playing all 40 minutes. As noted above, he was the constant scoring threat for Syracuse, and just played a real smart game.
- Welcome back, Brandon Triche! He had several great looks in this game, but unlike recent memory, was actually able to hit those shots. Brandon was 6-9 for 17 points, five assists, and a couple of steals.
- CJ Fair continued his consistency. 16 points on 6-10 shooting, and eight rebounds.
- Michael Carter-Williams tied a Big East Tourney record with 14 assists; along with six points and five rebounds, that was a solid effort. When the three guys listed above are making their shots the way they did today, I don't mind that MCW only had six points; he had a hand in 14 baskets, and that's just fantastic. And he only turned the ball over once!
- Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita equally shared time at the five, and combined for 14 points and eight rebounds. That's decent production there in a rotation, and that will be key for Syracuse to play well as tournaments move on.
- There weren't many substitutions on Boeheim's part, mainly because what was on the floor was working.
- Overall Syracuse shot 27-48 (56.3%), 9-15 (60%) from three, 29 rebounds and 21 assists.
- Seton Hall really struggled on the boards, particularly on their end, only grabbing four offensive rebounds (18 overall).
- The Pirate bench scored zero points. But to be fair, there were only 18 total bench minutes.
- Aaron Cosby was the Seton Hall (and game) leading scorer with 22.
- While not stuck in Court, I was in my office flipping between this game and the Sistine Chapel camera. Syracuse played much better once we had a new pope. Coincidence?
- Yeah, probably.
|Syracuse Students Agree: one last run through the Big East Tournament would really turn things around|
The Big East, as everyone knows it, will essentially cease to exist after the title game on Saturday night. Yeah, spring sports are still going, but Big East means basketball. And Big East basketball is defined by its annual tournament in Madison Square Garden. Today at "2:00pm" (really 2:20 or 2:30 depending on the end time of the noon game) #5 seed Syracuse will battle #13 seed Seton Hall. For anyone who watched Seton Hall beat South Florida in overtime last night in the BET opening round, you know Seton Hall did not look good. This should be a welcomed sight for Syracuse fans, as we know our beloved Orange hasn't really looked good in quite some time. Last night, the Pirates shot 40.9% from the field, and 22.2% from three. The key for Syracuse (other than solving its own offensive woes) will be to contain Pirate center Eugene Teague. Especially down the stretch last night, Teague grabbed some key rebounds to allow Seton Hall to even the score and eventually win in the extra period. Teague had a double double with 14 points and ten rebounds. If Seton Hall's poor outside shooting continues against the strong Syracuse zone, the Pirates should have a hard time scoring points. This could be another low scoring, painful game to watch, if Syracuse can't snap out of its funk. But I think they can. Everything is different in New York come championship week, and Jim Boeheim won't let this team roll over when it counts like this. Brian picks Syracuse to win by 13, while I'll go with a more conservative nine point win. The winner faces #4 seed Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon. Today's game can be seen on ESPN, ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app, so whether you're at work or supposed to be at work, there should be a way for you to watch. Mute's probably the way to go anyway, what with Len Elmore & Mike Patrick on the call.
|We hated being there as much as you hated how Syracuse has been playing|
Syracuse has sputtered the second half of its final Big East season. Offensive woes. That's the bottom line. So you can imagine why we haven't been quick or excited to do game recaps around here. But, for the sake of posterity, I'll share a few words about each of the final three regular season games here on the cusp of Syracuse's final run through the Big East Tournament.
Exactly a week after the big record-setting game in the Dome against Georgetown, the Louisville Cardinals came in for another important late-season game. The Orange was looking for a season sweep of Louisville, while the Cardinals wanted to steal a game. While not quite as bad as the Orange offensive effort from the week before, Syracuse still had a hard time scoring in this one. The victory goes to Louisville, 58-53.
- The Syracuse offense was three players: CJ Fair (19), James Southerland (13), and Michael Carter-Williams (11).
- Syracuse shot 20-56 (35.7%) from the field, and 5-13 (38.5%) from three.
- Brandon Triche had another Brandon Triche game, 2-11 including 0-3 from three.
- Syracuse turned the ball over 16 times, leading to 16 Louisville points.
- To be fair, Louisville didn't shoot or play any better than Syracuse. This was actually a gritty, back and forth game for much of the time. Unfortuately Louisville grabbed the lead near the end and kept it just out of reach for Syracuse.
- As the final score indicates, the Orange offense woke up a bit in this one, compared to recent games. Four Orangemen were in double-digit scoring: James Southerland (22), CJ Fair (16), Brandon Triche (15), and Michael Carter-Williams (10).
- But to say the offense was better is a little misleading; Syracuse still only shot 26-67 (38.8%), and an abysmal 2-18 (11.1%) from three. Credit the 22 offensive rebounds leading to 21 Syracuse second chance points to really reflect how Syracuse was able to get 78 points on the board.
- Syracuse also dominated in the paint, 40-26.
- Bottom line is, DePaul just isn't very good.
- James Southerland had a double double and a start on Senior Night. So, good for him.
- Neither team got off to a great start in this one. Offense was pretty slow-going and hard to find. At 11-11 with 10:58 to go in the first half, that's just as close as Syracuse would ever come in this one. Georgetown scored at 9:49 to make it 14-11 and never relinquished the lead.
- Even so, Syracuse kept scratching back throughout the first half. The Hoyas might go on a bit of a run, but Syracuse would find itself right back in the game. It was just never enough.
- Eventually, in the second half, Georgetown built such a lead in the game that you knew there just wasn't enough time left for Syracuse to come back, especially with the way they had been playing.
- Michael Carter-Williams had 17 points to lead the Orange in scoring, which is nearly half of the 39 points Syracuse managed to score. No other Syracuse players had double digit scores.
- Syracuse only made 15 shots on 41 attempts (31.9%) and went a horribly cold 1-11 (9.1%) from three. Meanwhile, Georgetown shot 42%, 40.9% from three, knocking down nine threes.
- Those threes by Georgetown seemed to come at times when Syracuse was trying to crawl back into the game or gain momentum. So really, it was like nine daggers.
- Syracuse did a number on Otto Porter this time around, especially in the first half, but it was at the expense of players like Markel Starks, who hit five of the nine threes.
- Syracuse only had three second-chance points.
- Showing zone and man defenses, the Hoya effort was just as effective -- if not more so --- than they were in the Carrier Dome a couple weeks ago. The best stat to show this (besides the 39 points allowed): Syracuse had one four assists. Four.
- It also didn't help that Syracuse coughed up the ball 14 times.
|JoJo shows why he earned #22|
I had the pleasure of taking in the Virginia-Syracuse lacrosse game in the Carrier Dome on Friday night. I hadn't been in the Dome for lacrosse since 2011, so it was nice to get back into the swing of things. And what a better game to see than longtime rivals Virginia and Syracuse? While it's no secret that Syracuse lacrosse is "down" this year, especially after losing that first game against Albany, you always carry a little bit of hope with you that Syracuse could find a way to win.
And I admit it: I wasn't giving Syracuse a chance in Hell to beat Virginia on Friday night. Couple that pregame sentiment with a couple costly early game penalties against Syracuse that resulted in man-up goals for Virginia, and the 2-0 deficit may as well have been 200-0. But then, much to my delight, Syracuse settled in and rattled off four goals in the first, and ended the quarter with a 4-3 lead.
The second quarter sped by, but Syracuse surrendered three goals to Virginia without scoring themselves to trail 6-4 at the half. At that point, you really didn't know where this game was going; it was a relatively low-scoring event for these two teams, with a lot of running back and forth down the field with turnovers and good goal play. It was mostly a fast-paced game, save for a curious stall warning on Syracuse at one point.
In the third quarter, Syracuse did to Virginia what Virginia did to Syracuse in the second: rattling off three goals while holding the opponent scoreless. The Orange had all the momentum in the third quarter, and I had a Panda Paws waffle cone, so all was good in the world.
And so, Syracuse went into the fourth quarter with a 1-goal lead, up 7-6. With the way the momentum had swung, and the excitement of the crowd, I think we all began to think that Syracuse not only could win this game, but they would. A couple of Virginia goals and a Syracuse goal knotted things at 8-8, and the last several minutes of regulation proceeded as if a national championship was on the line. Truly, it had that kind of atmosphere. Both teams had ample opportunities to cash in on possessions and put the ball in the goal, but neither could get the job done. Off to Overtime!
I'm pretty sure the entire crowd of 5,388 was standing the entire overtime period. Once Syracuse controlled possession, Coach Desko called timeout to draw up a play. We watched as it transpired, and Kevin Rice caught the feed from Dylan Donahue for the clinching goal -- #OrangeGoal! The Syracuse players mobbed each other on the field, as if they had just won the national championship. Even the players felt the atmosphere!
It all made for one of the most exciting lacrosse games I had seen in a while. Which, for me, was a great way to get back into watching lacrosse in person again.
For the Orange, only three of the team's nine goals were assisted. In all, eight different players scored goals for Syracuse, with only JoJo Morasco with two. Bobby Wardwell spent the entire game in the net for Syracuse, with nine saves and eight goals allowed. This game was certainly not without flaws for Syracuse. Of note, they really struggled on face-offs, losing that battle 16-5. The Orange also had trouble picking up ground balls, with Virginia having that edge 33-23. While this game did not see many penalties (seven total), it was Virginia who capitalized on the man-up opportunities (2-4) while Syracuse wasted their chances (0-3).
A win like this can, and should, give a team like Syracuse some serious confidence and momentum to go out there and play at a high level. This win improves Syracuse to 2-1 on the year, with a lot of lacrosse still to be played. Don't write off the Orange just yet; they're just getting started!