Orange continue winning streak with 23rd consecutive victory

SU remains undefeated in the season with a 57-44 victory over Clemson Sunday.

The Syracuse Orange extended its best ever start to a season Sunday, defeating the Clemson Tigers 57-44. C.J. Fair bounced back after struggling in SU’s game against Notre Dame Monday, leading No. 1 Syracuse (23-0, 10-0) with 19 points over Clemson (15-7, 6-4).

In the Orange’s last game, Fair had just six points on 2-for-11 shooting. Tonight, though, he shot 8-for-13 to lead all scorers.

“It’s all about going to the next game,” Fair said. “You can’t dwell on a good or bad game.”

Head coach Jim Boeheim called Fair’s performance one of his strongest on the seasons.

“This was by far his most efficient game of the year,” Boeheim said of his senior forward. Fair also had seven rebounds and turned the ball over only twice in 39 minutes of play.

Trevor Cooney, the hero of Monday’s game with a career-high 33 points, cooled off considerably. He still posted solid numbers, though, scoring 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-7 from three-point range. Scoring was at a premium with the Orange playing a grind-it-out team like the Tigers, which made shot selection especially important.

“You know that shots are going to be limited,” Cooney said. “They’re going to slow it down. Every shot counts, every shot has to be a good one.”

Syracuse did a good job of limiting Clemson on the other end of the court, holding the Tigers to 34.1 percent (14-for-41) shooting from the field. With the game being played at such a slow pace, Boeheim said it was even more crucial Syracuse get ahead early and not have to chase the Tigers with fewer possessions available.

“You don’t want to be behind in any game, but you really don’t want to be behind in a slow game,” Boeheim said. “A six- or eight-point lead could be a pretty substantial lead in a game like this.”

The Orange avoided that situation, leading for all but 21 seconds. And when it came time to put the game away, Boeheim let his young floor general take over.

Tyler Ennis didn’t have an extremely flashy game on paper, scoring six points on just 3-for-11 shooting. But he hit a pair of key lay-ups in the final seven minutes of the game, the first of which showed great decision-making on the freshman’s part. While Clemson’s defense was waiting for a shooter to curl off a screen, Ennis caught the Tigers on the back foot and ditched the designed play for an easy drive to the basket.

“Your point guard has to make a lot of plays down the stretch because you can’t necessarily get something on your first option,” Boeheim said. “Clemson’s a good defensive team, but they’re focused on Trevor (Cooney) and C.J. (Fair) and Tyler (Ennis) takes advantage of that down the stretch. He’s done that all year.”

Ennis also had five assists to just one turnover. He credited Boeheim’s faith in him and his teammates’ offensive firepower for giving him the tools to succeed.

“Coach, at the end of the game, really puts the ball in my hands and gives me the opportunity to make the play,” Ennis said. “With the spacing we have and the options I have teams can’t really help off, so it’s just up to me to make the read and make the right play.”

Syracuse’s lineup saw some shuffling when injury and foul trouble plagued the Orange frontcourt. Center Baye Moussa Keita left the game with 7:02 remaining in the first half after a right leg injury and never returned. And Rakeem Christmas, the team’s only eligible center left, picked up his third personal foul less than three minutes into the second half, and his fourth with 13:16 left in the game.

Boeheim responded with a backline of Fair, Jerami Grant, and Tyler Roberson. Grant, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, was an active contributor throughout the first half. But it became a different story when he was forced to play in the middle of the 2-3 zone. He had only one rebound in the second half, and sometimes struggled looking for an opponent to box out.

“It’s definitely tough,” Grant said of playing center. “You don’t know where anybody’s coming from, you have to jump and go get it.”

Boeheim wasn’t concerned with having to play smaller inside, though, since the team has plenty of length elsewhere.

“Jerami’s pretty long in there, C.J. has good size, Mike’s physical,” Boeheim said.

Boeheim wished Keita well, but didn’t comment on the extent of his injury. Should he miss any time, Christmas will have more pressure on him to play with discipline and stay out of foul trouble.

“You just have to make better decisions,” Christmas said of possibly playing without Keita. “You can’t force anything.”

The Orange travel Wednesday to play at Pittsburgh. 

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.