After playing just two minutes against North Carolina State, Rakeem Christmas rebounded nicely with a career high 10 points and five rebounds, helping Syracuse to an 80-61 win over Bucknell.
Christmas scored the first seven Orange points, as the Orange looked to feature its freshman forward down low against a smaller, less athletic Bison lineup. For the game, SU outrebounded Bucknell 36-30, while outscoring them in the paint 32-14.
“I felt good,” Christmas said. “I played hard and did what my teammates needed me to do.”
With Christmas getting the Orange offense started early, Syracuse used an 11-2 run to go up 24-10 with 7:29 left in the first half. Bucknell would never get the lead below double digits after that, as the Orange held the Bison to just 37 percent shooting from the field.
“Rakeem got off to a great start and I thought he was very good and very productive,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s learning, but I thought tonight he did some really good things.”
It has been a tough season so far for Christmas. Although he has started all 12 games this season, the forward is averaging 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.6 minutes a game.
Aside from the North Carolina State game, Christmas also saw limited action against Florida, Stanford and Virginia Tech. In all four of those games, Christmas was subbed out early in the first half and never returned.
Either CJ Fair or James Southerland replaced him in the starting lineup.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday, as Christmas stayed on the floor for the first six minutes of the game, and played well into the second half.
“Rakeem just showed a little bit of what he can do,” Syracuse forward Kris Joseph said. “He really hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential.”
But if Christmas wants to stay on the floor come Big East play, he will need to make some adjustments.
“He’s got to be a warrior down there and right now he’s a nice kid,” Boeheim said. “This team didn’t block him out and weren’t physical with him so he got to the basket and made some plays. Most teams we play aren’t going to let that happen.”
Kicia Sears contributed to this story with reporting from Syracuse.