Men's basketball: Orange dominates paint again in win over Holy Cross

Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough shine as perimeter shooting continues to fail SU.

Syracuse stormed to a post-Thanksgiving win Friday night, defeating Holy Cross, 72-48, in front of 19,167 fans at the Carrier Dome. Senior Rakeem Christmas and his younger counterpart, freshman Chris McCullough, collectively scored 39 points. 

As has been the case so far in 2014, the Orange struggled from the perimeter and did much of its damage (42 points) in the paint. 

Photo: Leonard Christopher
Rakeem Christmas (No. 25) delivers a thunderous dunk against Holy Cross. The senior had 25 points in the win.

SU missed all 14 attempts from behind the three-point line, including four by primary deep threat Trevor Cooney. He is shooting an abysmal 27.3 percent outside the arc this season. 

"They're gonna drop eventually," Christmas said regarding the outside shots. "They just gotta keep taking those shots and do what they're doing." 

Christmas dominated inside and scored a career-high 25 points with the help of three dunks. On defense, he crashed the boards for a career-high eight rebounds. 

"I'm not thinking of how many points I score,” Christmas said. “Just going out there and having fun with my teammates.” 

McCullough showed off his versatility on offense, earning his second double-double of the season. The 6-foot-10-inch freshman scored 14 points and had 13 rebounds. 

His performance at the other end of the floor was a different story. 

"I wasn't playing good defense," McCullough said, "so I just needed something to try to pick me up." 

"(McCullough) gave up 15 points by himself in the second half," SU head coach Boeheim said, seizing a chance to calm the NBA Draft frenzy that had been circulating since Wednesday. 

This came after an ESPN Insider article published by Chad Ford said McCullough was a likely NBA lottery pick, according to a group of pro scouts. 

"I've talked to ten pro scouts," Boeheim said. "Not one of them thought Chris McCullough was a first round pick. So who's he talking to? I have no idea." 

Kaleb Joseph also performed well against the Crusaders. The freshman point guard scored 14 points and dished out six assists for the Orange. 

But he wasn't pleased with his four turnovers. 

"I have to do a better job of being stronger with the ball," Joseph said. 

With the win, Syracuse improved to 5-1. Next, the Orange will take on Michigan in Ann Arbor on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The two teams most recently met in the Final Four of the 2013 NCAA Tournament with the Wolverines pulling out a 61-56 victory.

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