A quick take on Syracuse’s 56-50 win over St. Francis (NY) on Monday evening:
WHAT HAPPENED: Jerami Grant stole a pass with just over a minute left and fed a streaking Michael Gbinije for a go-ahead layup to give SU a 52-50 lead (their first lead since it was 32-30 early in the second half). St. Francis turned the ball over on their ensuing possession when Wayne Martin kicked the ball to Syracuse, and Grant hit a pair of free throws to put the Orange up 4, and the game out of reach. That allowed Syracuse to escape an embarrassing loss to a team who had never toppled a top 10 opponent before.
ANALYSIS: Plenty of concerning signs across the board for the Orange. Syracuse’s top gun, CJ Fair, came in averaging more than 21 points and was held to just 7 points. Without Fair providing a steady stream of offense, SU looked lost and succumbed to the pressure of trying too much one-on-one on offense, which led to the Orange going without a field goal from Tyler Ennis’ diving layup at 9:29 to Jerarmi Grant’s rebound back for a layup at 1:50. On defense, St. Francis was able to dictate tempo, using plenty of shot clock before finding a good shot against the 2-3 zone. Despite not having the height or athleticism of their counterparts, the Terriers asserted their will inside, and kept mostly even in the rebounding category (36-30). The familiar bugaboo of free throws was also a factor, with the Orange shooting just 18-27 one game after shooting a paltry 42.9 percent from the stripe.
HERO: Jalen Canon, a 6’6″ junior, may as well have been 7’0″ the way he was banging around inside with the Orange. He was not to be denied by any of the Syracuse centers, and finished with 16 points. Grant provided the spark late for Syracuse with the key steal and some timely free throw shooting, finishing with 13 points and 8 rebounds.
ZERO: It was just one of those nights for Fair, who shot just 2-13 from the field. Syracuse fans got a glimpse into the type of nights SU will have when Fair’s shot isn’t falling. Tyler Ennis wasn’t much better, as the freshman point guard was 1-8 from the field with just 3 assists to 2 turnovers.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse heads out to Hawaii to take on Minnesota on Monday, Nov. 25, at 5:30 p.m. at the Lahaina Civic Center. TV: ESPN2.