The numbers were not pretty for CJ Fair.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup at the start of the Big East tournament, Fair had averaged just 2.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Over the last four games, he was just a combined 2 for 17 from the field.
But Fair ended his slump against Wisconsin on Thursday night, leading the Orange with 15 points and seven rebounds as Syracuse advanced to the Elite 8 with a 64-63 win.
“We believed in him,” Scoop Jardine said. “We knew what he was capable of doing. I don’t think he really played bad in other games, he just wasn’t there offensively.”
Fair started to percolate after he stole a pass in the first half after the Badgers committed an uncharacteristic turnover. He immediately dished it to Dion Waiters and chugged up court.
Waiters rewarded Fair for his efforts, as the sophomore forward threw down a slam that put the Orange up 22-20 with 5:56 left.
“I give all praises due to Dion,” Fair said, with a smile across his face. “I told him that did get me going, with the easy dunk. Sometimes you just need to see the ball go in the rim.”
With newfound confidence, Fair started attacking the rim and using his trusted left-handed flip shot with devastating results.
“That was a nickname I had growing up—Silky Smooth,” Fair said. “I think my midrange is the best aspect of my game, and I just try and perfect that.”
It was nearly perfect on Thursday.
“The last four games he played before he went into his slump, he averaged 15 points a game, four straight games in our league which is a tough league,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “So we knew he was perfectly capable of it, and tonight he was there for us.”
As a whole Syracuse’s offense had one of its best performances of the season, as SU shot 55 percent from the field and 5 of 9 from downtown.
Fair was an integral part of that as the Orange will play in the Elite 8 for the first time since 2003.
“He’s that offensive weapon that you don’t have to call a play for, but you look up and he’s got 15 points,” Jardine said. “So I am happy he got his powers back and we can go into the Elite 8.”
Corey Mallonee contributed with reporting from Boston.