Syracuse spread the ball around and found strong play from almost every player in the lineup in its 81-34 win over 13-seed Montana. The win sends the Orange on to face 12-seed California Saturday. MCW had nine assists and Rakeem Christmas put up nine points and four rebounds. CJ Fair came out strong, scoring the first six points for Syracuse. Midway through the second half, Brandon Triche actually had more points than the entire Grizzlies team. Here’s our Fizz 5 takeaways from the victory.
- Everyone was involved
Syracuse got production out of every player. It wasn’t just Fair or James Southerland. This was a team effort and it started with defense. The Orange outrebounded Montana 38-28. Triche led the way offensively and defensively with five steals and 20 points. Even Rak Christmas got in on the action. One of the fears going into the tournament for the Orange was the lack of a strong big man down low to grab rebounds and score. Christmas hasn’t been able to do that consistently but he played well in the first half.
- Brandon Triche is back
When Syracuse lost four of its last five games in the regular season, Triche seemed to be invisible. He had absolutely no impact in the games. Performances like he had in the Big East tournament and what he showed against Montana suggests we may have the real Triche back. If he isn’t able to be effective, this team will not go far. He needs to be a major scoring factor. We saw that on Thursday night, and it looks like he doesn’t want his SU career to end quietly.
- Defense wins games
While the offense for Syracuse was incredible, it was facing a low-major school. So 81 points isn’t a huge surprise, although it sure feels good after the disgusting outputs against the Hoyas in the regular season. Did Montana play poorly or did Syracuse play really well? Montana is a very strong shooting team and has players who know how to score. Syracuse was able to stop scoring attacks from the Grizzlies and that Orange defense can help it win games in March.
- NCAA investigation
This is the second year in a row Syracuse has been hit with a potential NCAA issue the day before the first game of the tournament. There was speculation how this would impact SU, but Jim Boeheim said his team was focused on Montana and nothing else. Would that really be the case? Guess so. Syracuse absolutely dominated Montana and by the look of the game, one would never even know there is an investigation going on. Nice job by Syracuse to put it behind them and focus on winning the game instead of what is going on behind the scenes. It wasn’t a distraction that affected the court.
- Michael Carter-Williams had better ball handling
MCW’s struggles to control the ball was a major factor in Syracuse’s losses late in the regular season. His turnovers were costly and he didn’t know what he was doing when defenses attacked him. Thursday was a better night. MCW only had three turnovers, and the Orange only turned the ball over nine times. Remember when he was the NCAA’s assist leader? That changed once the Orange entered Big East play. MCW’s nine assists brings back memories of his domination in non-conference play. As long as Syracuse isn’t playing Big East powerhouse teams (other than itself) or top ranked teams, it has a chance for success. If the top teams in the region like Indiana fall, that could lead to a Syracuse-Miami Elite 8 game.
Posted: Austin Pollack