NEW YORK — There is little hesitation now for CJ Fair.
When the Baltimore native finds himself open at the 3-point line, he let’s the shot fly.
That’s exactly what happened when Dion Waiters found a wide-open Fair with 11:35 left in Syracuse’s game against Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Fair calmly drained the shot to put Syracuse up 47-42, bringing the pro-Syracuse crowd at Madison Square Garden to its feet.
“That shot,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “was the big shot of the game, I thought.”
It was part of a 17-3 run in which Syracuse seized control of the game. The Orange went on to win, 69-58, to advance to the finals of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Tip Off Classic.
That part of his game is a recent development. Last year, Fair attempted just three shots from beyond the arc (he hit one of them), mostly sticking to shots inside 10 feet.
That changed over the summer, as Fair spent countless hours working on his ong-range shot. It’s become a reliable part of his arsenal, and on the season, the sophomore is 3-for-7 from beyond the arc.
“I’m not going to be Ray Allen,” Fair said. “But if I have an open look, I’ll take it, and just keep the defense honest out there.”
Of course, Fair hasn’t forgotten what allowed him to be one of Syracuse’s most productive players off the bench last year. He finished the 2010-11 season averaging 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds a game, many of those points off rebounds and putbacks.
It was more of the same on Wednesday, with Fair putting back a Waiters miss at the buzzer sounded for halftime. The shot capped a 7-2 run that brought Syracuse back to within 29-27 after SU trailed by as many as seven points after starting the game 5-of-16 from the field.
“I know I’m not the first option,” Fair said. “I just want to make myself open for available opportunities to score. If I don’t, I try to grab the offensive board.”
The game was important in many facets for Syracuse, and Fair.
For Syracuse, it was its first true test of the season after four relatively easy games.
“When you get that first tough game,” Boeheim said, “it’s always going to be difficult.”
For Fair, it was the first double-double of his career. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, playing the entire second half after Boeheim inserted him into the lineup in favor of Rakeem Christmas.
“He’s a very steady player,” Boeheim said. “Very good defensively, very good rebounder. He is a very talented young player.”