A quick take on Syracuse’s 92-81 win against California in the Maui Invitational semifinal round:
WHAT HAPPENED: Jerami Grant threw down a vicious slam off a Trevor Cooney miss, nearly banging his forehead against the rim, as part of an 11-2 second half run that gave SU control of a tightly contested game that had featured 10 ties and 12 lead changes. Grant added a pair of free throws and a layup during that stretch to give the Orange at 71-59 lead with 6:33 left. The Golden Bears would get no closer than 7 the rest of the way, as SU advanced to the Maui Invitational Finals.
In a subplot to the contest, Cal’s Richard Solomon was forced to miss the game after being poked in the eye in Cal’s win over Arkansas, and the already thin front court was made even thinner when David Kravish was forced to sit for long stretches of the second half with foul trouble before fouling out with under three minutes left. Without Kravish inside, Grant was allowed to roam and probe the offensive glass, leading to his thunderous put-back.
ANALYSIS: A quick peak at the Syracuse side of the box score, and you’d think that the Orange had won easily. Syracuse shot 52 percent from the field, 50 percent from the 3-point line and 23-24 from the charity stripe, took care of the ball (8 turnovers), yet SU couldn’t wrestle control of the game until midway through the second half. The reason? Their defense, which is still a work in progress at this early point in the season. The Golden Bears kept pace with the Orange from the field (51.9 percent), and the 2-3 zone didn’t generate the turnovers its normally accustomed to (13). But there were plenty of good signs across the board for SU. Tyler Ennis, who had struggled with his offense to this season, had no such problems, Cooney continued his torrid shooting in Maui and the Orange won a game without their top gun CJ Fair (14 points on 5-17 shooting) having a good night.
HERO: Grant was unstoppable in the second half, and finished with a career-high 19 points to go with 8 rebounds. Ennis finished with 28 points on 9-12 shooting from the field and 8-8 shooting from the line. Cooney chipped in 23 points, knocking down five 3-pointers.
ZERO: Cal was without their best rebounder Solomon, yet still outrebounded the Orange 30-26. Syracuse got nothing from DaJuan Coleman (1 rebound), who went scoreless, and Rakeem Christmas, who had a quiet 4 points and 2 rebounds.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will play in the championship against the winner of Baylor/Dayton (that will follow this game) on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST. TV: ESPN.