It was rarely pretty, but #2 Syracuse remained unbeaten on the season by claiming a 49-44 home win over Miami (Fl.) in their ACC debut on Saturday afternoon. The Orange (14-0, 1-0 ACC) led for most of the first half, but stagnated on offense early in the second half and needed a late 8-0 run to regain the lead and hold off the Hurricanes (8-6, 0-2).
While Miami opted to slow down the pace to try to stay close in the game, SU played the welcoming host by shooting blanks most of the day from the field. The Orange finished the day with an unattractive 36.2 field goal shooting mark, including making a mere 28 percent of their shots in the second half and 20 percent from beyond the arc on the whole.
Syracuse did a very good job protecting the ball, which is even more important in a lower possession game such as this one, giving the ball up only seven times while forcing 15 Hurricane miscues.
The Orange traded markers with Miami during the game’s opening minutes with the SU guards handling the heavy lifting, as Tyler Ennis capped nine straight points for the backcourt with a layup that put the hosts up, 9-8. That lay-up also triggered six straight points and a 10-3 overall run that pushed Syracuse out front, 17-11, with 8:30 off the clock. C.J. Fair finished the run for the Orange, scoring the last six points in the span.
Miami posted a pair of baskets to get within a deuce, but Fair pushed his personal streak to eight points for SU. Cooney ended his teammate’s run by bombing in a trey to stretch the Syracuse lead to 22-15.
The Hurricanes threw in a pair of triples to get within a single point, but the Orange responded with a free throw and monster slam by Jerami Grant to close the scoring in the half at 25-21 in favor of SU.
Grant’s dunk came with 1:43 remaining in the opening half and it would be the last Syracuse field goal for a long time. A pair buckets from the ‘Canes to open the second half tied the score, but two Rakeem Christmas free throws nudged the Orange back in front. Miami promptly erased that lead with a pair of triples for their first lead of the second half at 31-27 with 6:30 off the clock.
Two free throws from Fair pulled SU within two, but a pair of jump shots from the ‘Canes made it a 35-29 game. On the first Syracuse possession after the under-12 media time out, Fair collected an offensive rebound and later in the possession splashed a three-point shot, ending the Orange field goal drought at 10 minutes, 33 seconds.
Shortly after that, Rakeem Christmas made a nifty lay-up to pull SU within 36-35, but Miami scored on consecutive trips to stretch their lead to five points with just over six minutes on the clock.
Christmas posted up for a short jump shot, then Grant buried a straightaway 18-footer to get the Orange back within a point and force a Hurricane timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Fair drew a charge, then the next trip down the court, posted up for a short flip through the basket to put Syracuse in front, 41-40.
On the next SU possession, Ennis found a crease in the Miami defense and blew through it for a shockingly easy look at the rim. The layup capped eight straight Syracuse points and placed the hosts out front, 43-40, with 3:20 to go.
Miami ended the run with a lay-up of their own, but Ennis again drove and scored, reinstating the three-point Orange lead. Two possessions later, Cooney gathered a loose ball under the basket and was fouled putting it up. His two foul shots made the margin 47-42 in favor of SU.
The Hurricanes made a short jumper to get back within three and were forced to foul. The whistle sent Ennis to the line, and the freshman point guard calmly dropped the ball through the hoop twice to make it a 49-44 game with 7.8 seconds left. Miami missed a late three-pointer and the clock expired, giving the decision to Syracuse.
C.J. Fair led all scorers in the game with 15 points. Trevor Cooney had 11 points, but struggled on the day, making only 2-of-12 field goals, with all of those shots coming from three-point range. Tyler Ennis chipped in with ten points, seven assists, and three steals while Rakeem Christmas aided the Orange cause with eight points and a game-high seven rebounds.
No one from Miami reached double figures, as Garrius Adams paced the ‘Canes with nine points. James Kelly and Manu Lecomte each dropped in eight points and Donnavan Kirk blocked four shots on the day.
The Orange will continue their ACC schedule on Tuesday when they hit the road to face another former Big East foe in Virginia Tech. The Hokies (8-5, 1-0) have been off since New Year’s Eve, when they halted a two-game slide by beating Maryland-Eastern Shore. Like SU, Tech also opened conference play by defeating Miami (Fl.), only they did so on the road, pulling out a 61-60 overtime win on December 8.
Jarell Eddie tops Virginia Tech in scoring and three point shooting, averaging 17.4 points per game and knocking down 47.2 percent of his tries from deep (42-of-89). Adam Smith (13.1) and Ben Emelogu (12.2) both average double figures in scoring and have also made over 40 percent of their shots from three-point range. As a unit, the Hokies are very effective from deep, boasting a 42.5 percent shooting mark on threes.
The ball will go up in the air at 9:00pm Eastern and the ACC Network holds the broadcast right for this game, so please check your local listings.
The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.