|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.
|Jerami Grant was everywhere - including the floor|
Syracuse has never played against California twice within less than a nine month period. In fact, Syracuse had only played California two times before: 2009 at the 2K Sports Classic, and this past March in the NCAA tournament. So all of a sudden, Cal is a frequent opponent (if you consider three meetings in four years frequent). At any rate, this game was for the right to play in the Maui Invitational title game. The Orange got some good news before tip-time, when Cal announced that Richard Solomon would not play, after having been on the business end of an eye poke the night before. Good news, because Solomon did a number on us back in March. This game evolved much like Monday's game: a lot of back and forth in the first half, and an eventual pull-away by Syracuse in the second. In the end, Syracuse beat California 92-81 to advance to the title game.
- 92 points of offense means something was clicking. A lot of players contributed a lot. Let's highlight a few of them:
- Leading scorer was point guard Tyler Ennis, who had a career high 28 points on 9-12 shooting, 2-3 from three, and 8-8 from the foul line. I mean, good God! And it's not like he was a ball hog either.
- Trevor Cooney continued his nearly unconscious shooting, finishing with 23 points on 7-11 from the floor, 5-8 from three and 4-4 from the line.
- Jerami Grant had a great game off the bench: 19 points on 7-11 shooting and 5-6 from the line in 28 minutes. Though he had probably the best dunk on the season thus far for Syracuse, he gets the dubious honor of being the only Orange player to miss a free throw in this game. More on that in a minute.
- How would CJ Fair play after getting stitches in his cheek? Turns out it was a pedestrian 14 point performance. The 5-17 from the field is what doesn't give you the warm fuzzies. It's OK for him to have an off-night from time to time (and given his effort on Monday, we'll let it go) -- as long as others step up like Ennis and Cooney did.
- What are we getting from Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman? Why are they still starting? Wouldn't it make sense for Grant & Baye Moussa Keita to start instead? Not that I'm suggesting Jim Boeheim do this, lest he go on a rant about how he must not know anything about basketball. But, just some pre-Thanksgiving food for thought.
- On a bright note, 23-24 is the stat of the night. 23 made free throws on 24 attempts. This stat doesn't belong to the Boeheim on Basketball instructional video from more than 20 years ago. That stat belongs to the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team in Maui against California. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
- Cal actually out-rebounded Syracuse 30-26.
- Cal committed 13 turnovers, leading to 19 Syracuse points.
|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.
17 first downs is good. 6-18 on third downs isn't bad. 2-3 on fourth downs is really good. 247 total yards is not good. Neither is losing a fumble and throwing an interception. Terrel Hunt (10/18, 75yds, 0 TD, 0 INT) didn't have a bad day but he didn't do much to keep Syracuse moving in the direction of the end zone. Drew Allen was worse, throwing a pick. PTG was really ineffective with his ankle, and Jerome Smith never got going. All in all a bad day for Syracuse.
This was about the performance we thought we were going to see. Syracuse held FSU to 1-4 on third downs, but that's because they earned 20 first downs total, mostly on downs not labeled with a three. They had 523 yards and put up 59 points. The only reason Syracuse didn't earn an F here was because they were playing #2 Florida State.
Hey, we got points! Ryan Norton, remaining perfect after coming off a suspension, nailed a 32 yard FG, his only attempt. Otherwise, punting was average and the coverage was average. But hey, points!
Maybe the referees felt sorry for Syracuse, or maybe Syracuse finally stopped committing dumb penalties, but the penalties were way down compared to the last few contests, only netting three for 20 yards total. The coaches deserve credit for that. And the play calling wasn't bad when faced with the monumental task of moving the ball against the FSU defense. It doesn't help that both Quarterbacks were really ineffective at moving the ball, forcing the run game to work even harder. Either way, an average effort.
All in all we got the game we expected. So you can't really fault Syracuse for being outmatched in the talent department. They performed about how I think they should have, rarely underachieving in a game they were clearly outmatched in. Solid effort. Now time to win the games that are left that are winable.
Syracuse faces longtime opponent Pittsburgh in a winner goes bowling scenario. At least that game will be more fun to watch.
Syracuse is one game from Bowl eligibility. With three games left in the season, you would think that things were looking good for the Orange. And yes, I think they are. But this is a tough week to earn that honor of heading to a Bowl game. Syracuse is heading down to play #2 Florida State.
QB Jameis Winston of Florida State is now under a newly initiated sexual assault investigation that we all found out about this week. But that won't stop him from leading the Seminoles onto the field to play Syracuse, a team that has a major uphill climb. Winston, despite the distractions, will put that all aside and play the game he has excelled at all the weeks of this college football season. If Syracuse is to have a chance in this game, the offense has to consistently produce. The defense will only be able to do so much. Even if Syracuse manages to get turnovers, Syracuse will have to capitalize on those turnovers and turn them into points. If Syracuse can't score against FSU's defense, then obviously it will be a long day. Syracuse is a massive underdog in this game. And I'm not insane. I think Florida State is going to win. I just hope Syracuse can score at least once, something they couldn't do against Georgia Tech, and something they did a couple times against Clemson. Seminoles win 56 to 14.
This game will be available for the greater ACC Footprint on ABC and ESPN 2 for the rest of the nation at 3:30pm. You can check out which area you are in here. For those able to watch on ESPN 2, the game is also available at Watch ESPN. John will be watching the game and on the Tweets, but I'll be out of the home office. Enjoy the game. It should be... interesting.
It started with a great drive down the field, but then the offense sputtered out. Syracuse was 3-14 on third down, but did lead in yardage with 382 and they were 2-2 on fourth down. Terrel Hunt (15/24, 140 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT) did not have a great day. Luckly Jerome Smith (28 car, 118 yds, 4.2 avg, 2 TD) did have a great day. He was the majority of the offense.
Syracuse limited Maryland to 292 yards, 19 first downs, 5-17 on third downs, and 1-4 on fourth down. In general Syracsue played great defense in the game up front and pretty good defense in the secondary. The front line harassed Maryland's QB all day. Syracuse also managed two INTs on the day, which always helps.
Ryan Norton came back and drilled two field goals with a long of 34 yards. He also added two extra points. Coverage was good, and returns were good. What was not good was a kick catch interference penalty that Syracuse got on their coverage, but that was an absolute incorrect call.
In general you had to like the offensive play calling in this game, as well as the decisions to go for it when Syracuse had fourth down. But 12 penalties for 115 yards is ridiculous. This team has to improve it's dicipline, and that starts with the coaching.
Overall a great effort led to a nice win for the Orange. And that put Syracuse with more chances to get to a bowl game than not.
Syracuse will now play the buzzsaw that is Florida State. That probably won't go well. But that's a story for tomorrow.
|CJ had a decent game|
The problem for the Orange in the game against Cornell last week was the slow start. The halftime deficit. So it was no surprise that Syracuse came out hot to start the game against Fordham on Tuesday. Syracuse ran the floor, Syracuse hit its shots, Syracuse played strong defense. Syracuse was playing Syracuse basketball. But in flip-flopping John Kerry would be proud of, Syracuse played the second half against Fordham like it did the first half against Cornell. Thankfully, the Orange halftime lead was still too much for Fordham to overcome, as Syracuse won on Tuesday 89-74 to improve to 2-0 on the season.
- BOMC is CJ Fair, who led the team in points with 26 on 9-17 shooting, including a studly 7-7 from the foul line. CJ made the most of his 32 minutes, grabbing six rebounds and two steals.
- Tyler Ennis stepped up offensively in his second regular season game, scoring 16 on 4-8 shooting and hitting 8-10 at the line. With five assists, four rebounds, and four steals, this was easily a career game for Tyler. Production like that, game in and game out, and watch out, America!
- This game saw the reintroduction of Jerami Grant, after his one-game suspension for playing a game in a summer league. Grant reminded us how important he will be to this team, scoring 16 on 6-12 from the floor, ten rebounds, and three steals. Jerami was one of two Orange men in the double-double.
- The other was DaJuan Coleman, who had the traditional big guy double double with ten points and ten rebounds.
- Trevor Cooney left all his threes on the court against Cornell, and didn't leave any for Fordham. He hit one field goal the entire game, and was essentially a non-factor. Remember what I said about consistency?
- Syracuse won the rebounding battle 48-29.
- Syracuse won the first half 46-21, but lost the second half 53-43.
- Syracuse defenders put a lot of focus on Fordham's Jon Severe, who struggled in the first half. But then he blew up in the second and ended up with 19 points on the night.
- He was bested on his team by Branden Frazier, who dropped 33 on the Orange. I guess when you hit 4-6 from three and 11-13 from the foul line, you'll end up with decent numbers.
- I'll say it now: I'm not a fan of the ESPN3-only broadcasts. I'm not sure if it's a production issue or what, but my picture quality was horrible during the game -- the commercials were crystal clear, though. Gots to pay the bills, right?
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|Where has this Trevor Cooney been?|
The Syracuse Orange opened the 2013-2014 season Friday night against upstate rival Cornell. Since the Big Red's run through the NCAA Tournament a few years ago, they've gone back to their traditional role as a cupcake. Maybe that was the attitude the Orange had straight from the opening tip, because Cornell was able to exploit something. They were hitting their shots, forcing turnovers, catching the Orange a step behind. The result? At one time, a 14-point Cornell lead. Ugh. But Trevor Cooney -- Trevor Cooney -- kept Syracuse in this, especially with a couple huge threes late in the first half to close the gap to six. Syracuse actually had some great momentum going into halftime, only down 38-32. The first half was just the preview of the Cooney Show. He opened it all up in the second half, helping Syracuse tie and take the lead, ultimately never giving up the lead once Syracuse gained it on a made Cooney three at 14:56 to pull ahead 47-45. Syracuse goes on to win 82-60.
- BMOC is obviously Trevor Cooney: 10-12 includng 7-8 from three for 27 points. Both his point total and his made threes were career highs. Showing some defensive prowess in the backcourt, Cooney also gathered four steals.
- The reaction to Cooney's great game has been positive, as one would expect. But does that undo our feelings of disappointment from last year? A couple ways to look at this: one would be to say this year is this year, last year was last year, let's take what we can get. Another is a more cautious approach: let's wait and get some consistent good play from Cooney before we anoint him the next coming of Gerry McNamara.
- I'm in the second camp, for the record. Even if Trevor can be half as productive as he was on Friday night, game in and game out, then that's the kind of good consistency we need to see from him. I think we'd all take that.
- I think through the course of his career, I've made some reference to CJ Fair having a quiet, good game almost every game. Friday was no different: 6-11 for 19 points in 35 minutes. CJ battled inside, and was awarded with seven free throw shots (he made six).
- Baye Moussa Keita didn't light up the scoreboard, but he showed he can still grab rebounds (finished with seven).
- That didn't lead the team though. That honor goes to Tyler Ennis, who grabbed eight rebounds.
- Ennis is a freshman. This was his first college game, his first start. He impressed us in Canada. He impressed us in the two exhibition games this month. But he's still a freshman. Head Coach Jim Boeheim wants us to remember that. Ennis's box score will too: 0-6 from the field, finishing with one point, eight rebounds, seven assists. I mean, that's decent, and the long rebounding and assists is what you want to see from your point guard.
- Jerami Grant was in street clothes and was held out of this game, allegedly for an NCAA violation for playing in a summer league.
- Who doesn't hate the NCAA?
- As a team, it was the tale of two halves: Syracuse shot 13-29 in the first, 17-27 in the second. Points-wise, that translates to 32 in the first, 50 in the second.
- For the game, Syracuse won the rebounding battle 38-26, dished out 19 assists, and caused 17 turnovers.
- For Cornell, it was all about Nolan Cressler. in 35 minutes, Nolan 23 points on 8-16 from the field, 3-10 from three.
- Cornell was able to force 14 turnovers.
- Props to the crowd, who came out to the tune of 24,788 for the season opener. This included a very full student section. Obviously, we'll see a drop-off until ACC play begins, with the exception of the Indiana game and the Villanova game.
|Credit the Syracuse defense for this win|
This game was a 12:30pm start. It was just after noon and we were in the parking lot finishing up our last beers & cleaning up our tailgate before trekking up the Hill to get to the Dome for kickoff. Turns out, we could have tailgated another two hours, and not missed a thing. Neither team scored in the first half -- something that defensive-minded Head Coach Scott Shafer thought was "sexy." Out of the locker room, Syracuse was able to put up 13 in the third quarter, which is all the scoring this game ended up seeing. Syracuse wins 13-0, advancing to a 4-4 record (2-2 ACC) and two wins away from bowl eligibility.
Some may call this grade harsh (like probably BH, who would've given them a solid B probably), but let's face it, overall they played average. Not putting anything on the scoreboard for three of the four quarters isn't exactly good offense. Terrel Hunt had a decent 18-30 passing day for 144 yards; he also ran the ball ten times for a net gain of 36 yards, and scored the game's first touchdown from six yards out. Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith again split the majority of the rushes, combining for 147 yards net. As a team, Syracuse passed for 169 yards and rushed for 183. Clearly the play of the game was the reverse to Jarrod West, who faked a run and instead threw to a wide open Brisly Estime in the end zone for the touchdown. He caught it right below my seats in section 215, I had a great view of it. It was a greatly designed play, and props to the players for executing it. Sadly, it couldn't create any more offensive momentum for the rest of the game.
I teetered between A and A+ for this grade, but settled on the A+. They held a conference opponent scoreless for the entire game. They allowed only 173 yards passing, and held Wake to an abysmal 25 yards rushing. Not a typo. 25 yards. This was absolutely the key to the game. The defense also produced three QB sacks, and Isaiah Johnson came up with the big interception that led to Syracuse scoring on the trick play. I don't think you can ask your defense to do much else, especially when your offense really isn't explosive.
Syracuse punted 11 times for 442 yards -- but of note, three were punts of 50 yards or more, and three were pinned inside the Wake Forest 20. In a back and forth battle of field position, you need your punting team to step up and play like that. With Ryan Norton suspended for the game, Syracuse attempted no field goals, and went 1-2 on extra points.
Most of the credit here goes to the defensive game plan to stop the Wake run and get tackles for losses, and for the designed reverse run fake to pass for a touchdown. Other than that, the offensive game plan left much to be desired. Still, though, a win is a win.
It wasn't necessarily pretty (especially if you like scoring), but a win is a win and you really have to feel good about the way the defense played. Granted, Wake Forest contributed to its own incompetence, but Syracuse exploited it.
It should also be noted that Syracuse honored legendary quarterback Donovan McNabb during a halftime ceremony, and his #5 jersey now hangs in the Carrier Dome rafters. DNabb thinks Hunt will be a really good quarterback next year. Let's hope so! But before we talk about next year, we have a game coming up against departing ACC member Maryland, with an opportunity to get one game closer to bowl eligibility.
Labels: Smiling child