So much for the dreaded “trap game”.
Our beloved Syracuse Orange dispatched the scrappy, yet still over matched Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, overcoming a poor shooting first half to notch a 67-57 victory. It was Syracuse’s 20th straight W to start the season, which ties the best start in school history.
But you knew all that, at least you should. They only mentioned it about 30 times during the broadcast.
You were watching, right? Right? It was on like 30 different channels.
Slow Start (Again)
In a development that surprised absolutely no one anywhere, the Orange got off to a bit of a sluggish start on Wednesday night. Sluggish to the point where Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita scored six of Syracuse’s first eight points. That eighth point, by the way, came with 9:39 left in the first half.
Yeah, that kind of sluggish.
Yet the Orange were able to go into halftime with a 26-23 lead due to strong defense, once again led again by Christmas and Keita. Rak stuffed Wake’s first shot, the first of three on the game. Together, the SU bigs accounted for all of the Orange’s eight blocks. Six of those came in the first half when Syracuse needed stops to make up for their lack of buckets.
There’s been a lot of griping about the production (or lack thereof) from the SU big men. I’d like to remind you that the three-headed monster that is DaKeem Moussa KeitColMas is averaging about 12/12 on the season. Since DaJuan Coleman has been out with a knee, both the other centers have stepped up their production. The line for the two against the Deacons? 12 points, 15 rebounds and (worth repeating) 8 blocks.
Now, of course, it’d be fantacular if the Orange had one pivot guy they could count on for, say, 12 and 8 and a solid backup that’ll give them 5 and 5. But that’s not the case. Rak is making progress on being a threat to score in the post but he’s not quite there yet. The way I see it, having two average centers is better than having a star and a scrub.
Case in point. When Rak sat down with foul trouble in the first half against Wake, if was a big to-do with the announcers (please, don’t get me started on the announcers). I wasn’t worried at all. Were you? There’s pretty much no drop off when Keita comes in for Christmas and vice versa. Sure, Rak is a much more polished offensive player, but it’s not like hitting him in the post is Syracuse’s bread and butter either. Shuttling those guys in and out doesn’t change the way Syracuse plays at all. This is a good thing.
Over at my home away from home, I’ve taken to calling the end of games #TylerTime. One of the posters there made the comment that it seems like the Orange flip the switch during the under eight timeout and close games strong from there on (did you ever think you’d use the terms “close strong” and “Syracuse basketball” together?).
Everyone on the court has a hand in this, but you’d have to be insane or just plain dumb not to recognize that Tyler Ennis is the source. #TylerTime is a real thing. In the last five minutes of games, Ennis shoots close to 48% and garners 1.2 points per play, up from 41% and 0.9 points per play in the first 35 minutes.
Against Wake, #TylerTime came a bit early. Ennis scored 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, starting off with a couple of jumpers before repeatedly gashing the Demon Deacon defense for layups.
Now, of course, the other Orange were involved. C.J. Fair did his stat-ninja thing en route to his typical 16/8. Jerami Grant was able to drop 10 and 12, despite shooting only 3-8 from the field. Trevor (or maybe it was Travis) Cooney continued to struggle from deep but tallied eight points, mostly on the strength of garbage time free throws and a fast break dunk. But it was truly #TylerTime from wire to wire in the second half.
Going forward, despite starting slow, I think this game is a great preview of what we can expect to see from Boeheim’s squad on Saturday against Duke. As I mentioned in my preview, Duke is very much like Wake defensively; i.e. they can’t guard the perimeter worth a damn and don’t have any interior presence to deter shots at the rim. Given how Ennis dismantled the Deacons on Wednesday, he could be poised to have an even bigger night when the Dookies roll into town.
What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Leave your comments below.
Chris Daughtrey is the creator and author of Bleeding Orange. He is a contributor at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and at Atlantic Coast Confidential. You can connect with him on Twitter @OrangeBlood 44 or search #OrangeBlood.