Boston College hands Syracuse Orange first loss of the season

During a season in which Syracuse often relied on shutting down opponents from three-point range in the second half to come back to win, that result finally reversed itself on Wednesday, as Boston College made 9-of-14 triples after halftime to claim a 62-59 overtime win at the Carrier Dome. In that process, the Eagles (7-19, 3-10 ACC) erased a pair of 13-point second half deficits as they forced overtime and dealt the top-ranked Orange their first loss of the season, dropping them to 25-1 overall and 12-1 in conference action, a half game behind Virginia.

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Syracuse is now 25-1 on the season

SU was simply not up to the task after halftime, allowing the guests to shoot over 50 percent from the field after the break after holding them to a mere 20 percent shooting in the first session. BC also helped themselves by committing only five turnovers after gifting Syracuse a dozen first half giveaways that were turned into 17 Orange points.

SU struggled on offense throughout the game, shooting under 35 percent in each half and in overtime. The Orange also authored a field goal drought of nearly eight minutes in the second half as they allowed Boston College to go on a 20-5 run to take control of the game.

» Related: There’s nothing quite like a game at the Carrier Dome

The Orange started off the game slowly from the field, setting a trend for the night. They did not get their first field goal until nearly six minutes had elapsed when C. J. Fair snuck in for a reverse lay-up to cut the BC lead to 7-6. Trevor Cooney came up with a loose ball after that and drove the length of the floor for a lay-up that capped SU’s brief run at six straight points and put them up by one.

The Eagles tacked on the next two scores to regain the lead, but Syracuse would respond. They held Boston College scoreless while knocking down four shots to take a 16-11 lead with just over five minutes left in the opening half.

After the Eagles clawed back within a single point, Tyler Ennis set up Fair for a bucket, then pulled up for a 12-footer. Jerami Grant then added a three-point play to make it seven straight points that gave SU a 25-17 halftime lead.

Syracuse continued their strong play after the break, as Cooney bombed a three and Fair dropped in a nifty reverse lay-up that pushed the Orange lead to 30-17 and forced BC to take a timeout just over 75 seconds out of the locker room. The break of momentum worked, as Boston College made three treys to climb back within 33-26.

Fair got an easy baseline stuff to stretch the lead to nine with just under 14 minutes on the clock, but that would be the last Syracuse field goal until less than six minutes remained. Fair added two at the line to make it 37-26 in favor of the Orange, but two more triples from the Eagles sliced the gap to five.

Boston College was not done. With just under nine minutes showing on the clock, another three-pointer started a 10-1 run for the visitors, putting them in front, 46-42, with just over six minutes left.

Ennis stopped the bleeding for SU, ending the drought with a short jumper in the lane, then tacked on a floater off a hesitation dribble to knot the game at 46. BC got a bucket to go up by two again, but after a pair of trips to the line each netted one successful free throw for the Orange, they were forced into a shot clock violation.

Syracuse took the lead on the ensuing possession when Grant made a terrific spin down the lane and eased in the ball from a couple feet out. Boston College came right back, though, scoring a lay-up to make it 50-50 with under a minute left.

After Ennis missed a lay-up and a tip-in try also was no good, the freshman point guard tracked down the loose ball and called time out to set up a final play for SU. Ennis was trapped up high on a pick-and-roll, but passed the ball to Rakeem Christmas, whose short jump hook in the lane skidded off the rim and sent the game to overtime.

BC continued their hot shooting from deep early in overtime, splashing a pair of threes around a Syracuse bucket for a 56-52 lead a couple minutes into the extra session. The Orange, however, continued to fight.

Christmas made a pair of fouls shots, then SU opted to use their full-court press to speed up the game. Both teams were a little loose with the ball, but Ennis came out of the flurry with a lay-up that tied the game with 2:12 to go. A minute later, Ennis added a foul shot for a 57-56 Syracuse lead.

After relying so heavily on the long ball, Boston College deftly got a reverse lay-up off a pair of quick passes that put them back in front. After a near turnover, Fair quickly drove to the basket and unleashed a wild shot that missed badly. In the rebounding scrum, the ball went out of bounds and possession belonged to the Eagles.

SU fouled before the inbounds pass and the Eagles knocked down both shots for a 60-57 lead with 26 seconds to go. Ennis missed on a drive, but Christmas was there, tapping the ball softly through the rim to make it a one-point game.

Following two more free throws that made it a 62-59 BC lead with 11 seconds left, the Orange got a three-point look for Cooney, but he rushed the shot coming off the dribble to his left. Ennis came up with the rebound, but lost the ball. A Boston College player scooped up the ball and tossed it into the air, draining the clock before an SU player could corral it.

C. J. Fair had a strong effort on the surface, closing the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds, but it was a very inefficient performance, as he finished 7-for-23 from the field. Tyler Ennis had a solid all-around game, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Jerami Grant had 11 points to go with four steals and Rakeem Christmas posted nine points (all in the second half) and 11 rebounds.

» Related: Has Syracuse been lucky or good recently?

Baye Moussa Keita returned from a sprained knee that shelved him for the last two games, but only played a couple minutes in the first half before returning to the bench for good.

Only two players from Boston College managed to reach double figures, but the team still had a well-balanced scoring effort. Olivier Hanlon had 20 points to lead the way, but Lonnie Jackson added ten and Ryan Anderson, Patrick Heckmann, and Joe Rahon all chipped in with nine points. Anderson also had a game-high 14 boards.

The Orange will meet #5 Duke in a rematch of the instant classic from three weeks previous on Saturday night, this time on the road. SU seized a 91-89 overtime win at home in the first matchup between the two squads, led by C.J. Fair’s 28 points and Jerami Grant’s 24-point, 12-rebound effort.

That overtime loss is the only one the Blue Devils (21-5, 10-3) have suffered in their last ten games. Duke will face North Carolina on Thursday night before taking on SU.

The Syracuse-Duke contest will be televised live by ESPN at 7:00pm Eastern. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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