SU rallies to prevent upset against St. Francis

The Orange went on a 10-0 run in the final few minutes of Monday night's match-up with St. Francis to remained undefeated on the season.

A collective sigh of relief exhaled from the Carrier Dome when C.J. Fair knocked down the second of his two free throws to seal the 56-50 victory for No. 9/7 Syracuse (4-0) over St. Francis Brooklyn (2-2). The Orange offense struggled mightily throughout the game against the physical defense of the Terriers.

Photo: Lenny Christopher
Jim Boeheim pulls Tyler Ennis aside during the Syracuse victory over St. Francis.

“You can still play physical defense and I thought they did a good job of that,” Head Coach Jim Boeheim said.

It was the lowest scoring total of the season for the Orange, who shot only 35.3 percent from the field, missing layups and tough shots near the basket. The player who had the toughest time getting an open look was C.J. Fair, who shot hit only two of his 13 shots from the field. Without it’s primary scorer, the Orange hoped somebody would step up. And that man was Jerami Grant.

“C.J. was having a rough night, they were focusing on him on offense,” Grant said. “Somebody had to step up.”

With 1:37 left in the game Fair drove to his right and took a tough sweeping layup over his right shoulder, the ball bounced off the backboard and into a leaping Grant’s hands who laid it back in for the easy layup. That score tied the game at 50 apiece and gave the Orange the confidence they needed defensively.

The game wasn’t over and the Orange needed a couple of more defensive stops to get the victory. Late in the shot clock the Terriers got the ball to Wayne Martin who turned the ball over when Grant ripped the ball out of his hands. Grant pushed the ball up the court and dished it to Michael Gbinije who finished with a layup to give SU the lead.

“We just locked down defensively. We didn’t let them get any easy layups,” Grant said.

The Terriers turned the ball over on its next possession and were forced to foul Grant. SU did not shoot well from the free throw line all game, especially Grant who was 3-for-7 up to that point in the game. Regardless, he hit both of his free throws, extending the Orange’s lead to four points with 27 seconds remaining in the game.

The Orange defense played much better in the last four minutes than it did in the first 36 minutes. Syracuse didn’t allow a single point in those final minutes of the game, which gave the Orange the opening it needed to come back from a four-point deficit. SU got into that hole from weak interior defense. 

“This is the first team that really got the ball in the post and we just weren’t in good position,” Boeheim said. “They scored 29 points in the paint.”

DaJuan Coleman had one of his better offensive games of the season, hitting all five of his shots and pulling down five offensive rebounds. The offensive output he produced was given right back on the other end as his defense was subpar, leading to easy points for Martin and Jalen Cannon of St. Francis.

“He’s got to be better down there,” Boeheim said concerning the defense of Coleman. “He’s our best offensive rebounder. It’s just a question of can we give up what we’re giving up.”

The interior defense didn’t play much better with Baye Moussa Keita and Rakeem Christmas on the floor, but they eventually clamped down in the waning moments to help preserve the victory.

The offense was just disappointing as the defense, often times looking stagnant and confused. The physical play of the Terriers forced some plays and limited their opportunities for open looks.

“They were really up and in you,” shooting guard Trevor Cooney said. “They were taking away passing lanes but they wanted you to force it backdoor and we just didn’t take advantage of that.”

The team has work to do before the Maui Invitational but luckily they’ll have a week before their first game against Minnesota.

“I think we can learn from this and I think it will help us moving forward,” Boeheim said. “We have a lot of work to do and that’s not a surprise. 

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.