SAN DIEGO — Here are five things we learned from Syracuse’s 62-49 win over San Diego State aboard the USS Midway:
1. Funny exchange between Michael Carter-Williams and Jim Boeheim when Carter-Williams picked up his fourth foul. Boeheim motion to MCW to come out of the game, and the sophomore put up four fingers and said, “It’s only four,” trying to convince his coach to leave him in the game. Boeheim didn’t take well to this, screaming, “MICHAEL!” before his young point guard acquiesced. I definitely respect his competitiveness.
2. The zone looked excellent against an athletic Aztecs team. The Orange blocked 10 shots, stole 12 passes and forced 16 turnovers. More important is that the Orange got SDSU to take the shots they wanted them to take. SU basically dared the Aztecs to beat them from the outside, and that’s what San Diego State tried to do. Except they shot 1 for 18 from downtown, with SDSU’s top guns, Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, combining for 0-for-10 shooting.
3. If anyone was worried about how the zone would do without Fab Melo, Baye Keita, and especially Rakeem Christmas, gave Syracuse fans some reprieve. Both locked down the middle of the zone, with Christmas picking up five blocks. He’s definitely carrying the momentum from last year’s NCAA tournament into this season. “Last year I wasn’t doing that, and this year I am. It’s a good feeling to know that coach wants me to do something, and then I do it,” Christmas told me. “I used that from last year to motivate me.”
4. There was a huge (and almost laughable) discrepancy in fouls. For the game, Syracuse was called for 23 fouls, while SDSU was at 15. But San Diego State was fouling at the end to stop the clock and the Orange was still shooting 1-and-1 late in the game. Meanwhile, the Aztecs were in the double bonus midway through the second half. There was a huge sarcastic cheer from the Orange fans (it was about 60/40 in the crowd in favor of San Diego State) when the Aztecs finally got whistled for a foul. Fortunately for Syracuse, the outdoor conditions made shooting difficult. The Aztecs were 14-33 from the line. Said Boeheim: “Our foul line defense was really good.”
5. I caught CJ Fair as he finished his media interviews. I asked him what he wanted to tell those in #OrangeNation who couldn’t make the game. This is what he had to say: “This game was awesome. For the people that couldn’t attend, it was a great experience playing in front of the veterans. I’m really looking forward to playing the rest of the season.” In fact, all of the players paid homage to Veteran’s day before starting with their media comments.