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Best in the Big East: Syracuse’s Latest Win Gives Orange League Lead

A terrific night at the free throw line is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Mike Dwyer/AP

The seventh-ranked Orange capped off its two-game road trip with a win over Providence, 72-66. It was a but of a scare early as Providence lead by three at the half, but Syracuse pulled through in crunchtime to stay unbeaten in the Big East at 3-0. At 15-1 overall, the Orange has a temporary leg up on Louisville (14-1, 2-0). Jim Boeheim said it was the team’s worst shooting night of the year, but a win’s a win and puts SU in sole possession of first place in the conference over Louisville.

“Offensively, we haven’t seen zones much. When you don’t shoot the ball well against the zone, you’re going to have trouble. When you don’t shoot, it’s hard to get ahead against teams playing a zone. I know that.”

Here are the quick-hitters from Wednesday night:

Rakeem Christmas has his biggest game as a member of the Orange. The 6’10” PF turned in a career-high 15 points on 7-13 shooting, along with 8 rebounds (4 on the offensive end), and 4 blocks. Rak finally broke out of his shell and played big for SU. He had four personal fouls late and still found a way to be productive down the stretch. Although DaJuan Coleman barely played, Christmas’ performance is a great sign for the Orange frontcourt. Syracuse will need this type of effort from Rak throughout the season to stay in the conversation of the nation’s best, and this game could be the start of a run for the Philly native.

MCW put on the show we expected in front of his hometown crowd. The New England native had a stellar personal act while helping SU gut out the win. Carter-Williams dropped 17, adding 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and picked pockets for 5 steals. The season averages for the sophomore PG: 12 PPG, 5 RPG, and 9.6 APG. Despite struggling against Temple and USF, he’s been the team’s most consistent player. The feeling of coming home to his high school days sparked MCW’s play.     

Hallelujah! Syracuse shoots 94% from the free throw line (65% for the year). It’s been a horrible display of charity-stripe shooting for the Orange this year. SU had been shooting less than 70%, which is just too low to cut it, especially as conference ply rolls around. CJ Fair was 9-10, while the rest of the team was perfect in their limited attempts. Free-throws were vital given Providence was within two possessions in the final minutes. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come because the free-throw shooting has been awful all year.

Hats off to Friars’ Bryce Cotton and his performance. Cotton played the entire game and finished with 24 points (7-10 FGs) and nailed five 3-pointers. He was the added spark that kept PC in the game.

A solid rebounding effort bails out Syracuse’s horrid three-point shooting. The Orange was just (gulp) 3-21 from deep. Not your typical night from behind the arc. Luckily SU was ballsy once again on the boards, outrebounding Providence 36-22, 16 coming on the offensive end. Multiple possessions enabled Syracuse to convert second-chance points and put this one in the win column. Providence was 9-18 from deep, which is how the Friars stayed in it.

In a game where Brandon Triche struggled, Fair carries the offensive load. 23 points, 11 boards, 4 blocks, and impressive 90% at the line, Fair earns MVP honors for the PC win. Triche was just 2-10 from the field, but CJ played great all over the floor. His steady scoring gave Syracuse a go-to guy all night.

Good-bye Rhode Island. It’s Syracuse’s final conference game in Providence. Boeheim reflected post-game about the decades of playing against the Friars, and a change in his meal plan:

“We’ve been coming here for 34 years. That’s a lot of history. Every one of these games is a little bit of sadness for me. I know where all the good restaurants are now, and now I’ve got to go down to Clemson, S.C. I’m sure there’s a couple of Denny’s down there.”

In the words on Ricky Bobby: If you ain’t first, you’re last. SU owns the best record in the Big East both overall and in league play. Five straight wins, but the last two against the worst teams in conference. Had SU dropped either of these close games, there would be no sympathy. But as we saw, consecutive victories against the conference’s worst means the Orange keeps rolling into more Big East action against Villanova on Saturday afternoon.

Posted: Brendan Glasheen

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