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Picture of coaching staff who made it to the end of the game wearing their jackets
Where to start? Well, OK, Syracuse won. I guess that mention trumps everything else. But this wasn't exactly a pretty win. I suppose the Selection Committee doesn't look at pretty vs. ugly, so, who cares? Still, how Syracuse beat Wake Forest 78-70 was both impressive and surprising, considering what the Orange had to work with. Prior to the game, it was announced that Matthew Moyer would not be available, with his ankle injury hurting him too much. We heard Bourama Sidibe would be available if necessary. So, walking into the Dome, we contemplated the possibility of a 5-man rotation which, per the typical rules of the game, wouldn't be a rotation. As it happened, Bourama played 17 big minutes off the bench, and walk-on-turned-scholarship-player Braedon Bayer clocked four. Everything Coach Boeheim was able to get out of these seven players on Sunday culminated in that eight-point win.

  • Where would this team be without Tyus Battle? For all of the shortfalls in his game (which, think about it, he hasn't hit his ceiling yet!!), he does some special things out there to put up stats. His 34 points Sunday led the team -- all players -- and was a personal best at the Carrier Dome. He was 10-18 from the floor, including 3-4 from three, while also grabbing four rebounds, dishing four assists, and registering a steal. He's also one of Syracuse's iron men (as he has been for most games) playing all 40 minutes.
  • Oshae Brissett registered the team's only double-double, with 15 points and ten rebounds. Those points didn't come easy though: 3-11 from the floor and 1-4 from three. It was his 8-10 from the line that accounted for most of his points. Iron man minutes. Oshae is still one of my favorite players on the team and while he sometimes doesn't play like it, I have to often remind myself that he's a freshman and has such a potential to dominate in future seasons.
  • Frank Howard is such an enigma. On the one hand, he's far and away improved from last year, and on the whole plays great with pretty consistent double-digit scoring games; on the other hand, he still makes a lot of mistakes and is susceptible to falling into horrible shooting ruts. On Sunday, he played all 40 minutes, scored twelve points, nine assists, and five steals. Solid. But he was 4-10 from the line. As a team, Syracuse was 26-39 from the line.
  • That stat's not great. But, consider the 39 attempts -- 39! The Orange was more active on offense than that last game at the Dome (vs. UVA) but not quite as active as last Monday at Louisville. Still though, it wasn't just standing around, passing around the perimeter, and taking a crappy long shot at the end of the shot clock; it was good ball movement, good moving around, and as evidenced by the 39 free throw attempts a lot of driving to the basket. So, had Syracuse been just a little better at the line, I think the perception of this win would've been a lot better -- Wake wouldn't have gotten the score as close as they did in the waning minutes of the game, and Syracuse would have been viewed as dominating the game.
  • Of course, the other thing that aided that "holy crap how is Wake making a game of this" feel was their out of control scoring from three. In the first half, Wake was 1-10 from three -- 10%! -- and that was on a heave as the first half clock expired. Then, about halfway through the second half, Wake players Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford simply went off. They, along with Keyshawn Woods (with one) rattled off six consecutive threes, which helped Wake come to within two points with 4:24 to go. From there on out, Syracuse was just trying to create a cushion. Thankfully, they did.
And so, Syracuse avoids a bad loss at home. I was starting to have flashbacks to the Notre Dame game from early January, so I'm very glad the same result and disappointment didn't materialize. With another couple healthy scholarship players in the rotation, Syracuse would certainly have the depth and abilities to be a tournament team, and one that could maybe go far. But that lack of depth, more than anything, is going to doom the Orange a month from now.

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