The first points of Monday night happened when, less than a minute into Syracuse’s game against Notre Dame, SU freshman Jerami Grant hoisted a jumper. Into the net fell the ball and up went the Orange, 2-0.
It was just a jump shot. No three-pointer, no reverse slam dunk, nothing out of the ordinary. But it was a sign of the game both SU and Grant would have as the Orange shot its way to a 63-47 win over the Fighting Irish.
“Jerami broke open the game early,” Jim Boeheim said after the game. “He just got us off to a great start. Just made those 15 footers no problem, his defense was good. He’s played really well.”
Grant has been thrust into major action with two of SU’s key players, DaJuan Coleman and James Southerland out. He had shown flashes of his capabilities throughout the season, but at home in the Carrier Dome against the Irish, his defense and 14 points played a major role in the Orange victory. And the jumper is an aspect of his game he’s been working on.
“Teams usually leave me open for the mid-range jump shot,” Grant said. “I’ve been working a lot on it in practice so when I got the shot I took it.”
On a night when usual scoring suspects Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams had off nights in the points department, Grant, C.J. Fair, and Rakeem Christmas picked up the slack. Fair, like Grant, played the whole game and had a team-high 18 points. Christmas shot 6-of-9 from the field for 12 points.
Save for a period toward the end of the first half when Notre Dame kept the score close, SU was able to get the double-digit win because it shot nearly 50 percent, hitting 22 of the 45 shots it took.
Grant shot 6-of-8 from the field and added six rebounds despite not getting a breather.
“It’s definitely a transition I had to get used to,” Grant said of going from an end-of-the-rotation player to playing the entire game. “I felt good out there.”
His energy wasn’t lost even at the end of the game. With 1:31 to go and SU up 58-44, Grant sent Jack Cooley’s shot out of bounds with his lone, albeit stylish, block of the game.
Christmas added four blocks of his own. Toward the end of the first half, he blocked an Eric Atkins jumper. Triche grabbed the rebound, ran toward the SU basket, and placed the ball in the basket despite not entirely looking at the net. Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, Jeremi’s older brother, fouled Triche, who completed the three-point play and put SU up 24-17.
Despite being down two guys, despite getting off-shooting nights from key guys, and despite two straight Big East losses, SU comfortably beat the Irish, thanks to unlikely contributions.
“With everybody making shots it just makes it more easier for us,” Triche said. “It makes it a little bit harder for them to guard our team as a whole.”
And for Grant, those 15-footers may be called upon again. And that’s something he’s fine with.
“Just trying to do whatever my team needs for me to win. It’s something I’ve been shooting in practice, after practice, that’s something I’ve been working on,” he said. “I’m definitely comfortable with it.”
And for the Big East, that could soon become an uncomfortable situation.Rachel Marcus (Follow on Twitter @racmar)