After an upset win over then #1 Louisville on Saturday, newly ranked #3 Syracuse (18-1, 6-0) almost found itself with a first conference loss. But the Orange wins a gritty comeback game 57-55 over #21 Cincinnati (16-4, 4-3) at the Carrier Dome on MLK day, playing clutch basketball down the stretch to pull out the win, and highlighted by one of the dunks of the year.
SU’s last two games were decided in the final seconds, and the Orange found ways to win each. On Monday, Syracuse led 22-18 at the end of the first half, but the Bearcats went on a 10-2 run to open the second, forcing Boeheim to make adjustments. The play of the half was Michael Carter-Williams slicing through the lane with just under two minutes to play, and tomahawk dunking between three Bearcats. It was just another highlight reel play by one of the best players in the country, and displayed the incredible athleticism for a point guard.
While you have to credit Cincinnati for pushing a top 3 team to the limit, the Bearcats shot a lousy 33% from the field while the Orange shot 46%. UC made up for it in the rebound column, grabbing 13 offensive boards and 33 in total, while the Orange only had six and 25. It’s a stat Jim Boeheim has openly discussed needs tons of improvement for SU to be successful.
Unfortunately, Boeheim is working with a limited bench after James Southerland’s ineligibility. C.J. Fair played all 40 minutes while Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams each played 36 minutes. Freshman forward Jerami Grant continues to step up. He grabbed five rebounds in 35 minutes on Saturday against Louisville, and seven in 28 minutes on Monday.
The slow start could mean Syracuse was out of gas after the Louisville game. SU didn’t come out with as much energy as it needed, but its defense helped steady the ship. The problem was from around the three point arc. Cincy’s Sean Kilpatrick was just 6-for-15 from deep, but with a half dozen treys 18 of his 21 points came off the three.
The last two games have taken a lot out of Syracuse. Both were gritty Big East games that came down to the final seconds. Luckily, SU doesn’t have to play until the weekend and has a pair of unranked foes up ahead in Villanova and Pittsburgh.
Hopefully it’s a chance for the Orange to recharge its engines, because there’s still five weeks of league play, and the gauntlet of the Big East is just getting started.
Posted: Austin Pollack