Georgia Tech sends Syracuse to fourth loss in five games

In his final game at the Carrier Dome, C.J. Fair did everything he could, but it was not enough as #7 Syracuse continued their offensive malaise and dropped a 67-62 decision to Georgia Tech. While Fair tied his career high with 28 points, the Orange (26-4, 13-4 ACC) dropped their fourth game in their last five outings because they could not consistently make shots. SU shot under 40 percent from the floor in each half of the game.

The Yellow Jackets (14-16, 5-12) took the lead for good with less than nine minutes off the clock and held on from there, as their lead swelled to 13 at one point. Tech consistently scored on the Orange throughout the game, only going without a field goal for more than three minutes once in the game and they had a comfortable 12-point lead when that happened.

After Tech opened the scoring, SU responded with two buckets, the latter coming on a nice left baseline drive by Trevor Cooney for an early 4-2 lead. Syracuse would get their largest lead of the night shortly after at 9-6 when C.J. Fair scored on a lay-in out of the first media timeout, then Cooney swiped the inbounds pass and converted a lay-in of his own.

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Cooney struggled through Tuesday’s loss

» Related: Does Syracuse have its back against the wall?

Georgia Tech scored the game’s next five points, then, after an Orange score broke the stretch, took the lead for good with five more points. The 10-2 run had the Yellow Jackets in front, 16-11, with less than nine minutes off the clock.

After Syracuse sliced the margin down to two, Tech responded with a jumper and a three to push their lead to 21-14.

Tyler Ennis became the focal point of the Orange offense, scoring the team’s next nine points. However, the Jackets matched Ennis, scoring right after each of his buckets until Ennis bounced in a three-pointer that pulled SU within 28-23 with under two minutes on the clock.

While they did not immediately match that score, Tech did get a three-point play in the half’s final minute to reinstate their eight-point lead at 31-23.

Fair opened the second half with a three-point-play, then Ennis got one of his own off a steal. His free throw drew Syracuse within 33-29. After the Jackets beat SU’s full-court press for a dunk, Fair hit a pull-up in transition on the next possession to keep the Orange within four.

Georgia Tech made their move at that point, scoring 11 of the game’s next 14 points. The run put the guests out front, 46-34, with 13:20 left in the game.

The two squads traded markers until a bucket and free throw spread over consecutive trips allowed SU to climb within nine points. The Jackets scored on their next two trips to take their biggest lead of the game at 54-41 with 7:38 to play.

Down a dozen with just over five minutes on the clock, Syracuse made their move. Fair hit a three, Ennis dropped in a floater, and Fair spun into a jump shot that chopped the deficit to 59-54 with under three to go.

Tech got a dunk to stretch the lead to seven, but Cooney finally bombed a three to make it 61-57 with under two minutes remaining. Two possessions later, Michael Gbinije scooped up a loose ball in the lane and dropped it in, making it a two-point game with 36 seconds left.

SU opted to foul and the Yellow Jackets used the opportunity to put the game away. After two Tech free throws, Ennis missed a jumper, forcing SU to foul again. Two more free throws went on the board for the Jackets and it was 65-59 with 25 seconds left.

Fair buried a three from the top of the key to make it a three-point game. The Orange fouled once more, but again, the Jackets made them pay, sinking both for a 67-62 lead with 16 seconds to play.

Cooney missed a long three, then Fair missed one after Syracuse regained possession. Georgia Tech came up with the rebound and the remaining seconds slipped off the clock.

C.J. Fair poured in 23 of his 28 points after the break, making 10-of-18 shots after halftime. Tyler Ennis was the only other SU player to crack double digits, finishing with 18 points. Rakeem Christmas was solid on defense, collecting ten rebounds and blocking four shots.

» Related: Instant analysis of Syracuse’s loss to Georgia Tech

Trae Golden paced Georgia Tech with 16 points, but center Daniel Miller was the true thorn is Syracuse’s side. Miller turned in a spectacular all-around performance, racking up 15 points (12 in the second half), six rebounds, and six blocks. Robert Carter, Jr. added a dozen points for the Jackets.

The Orange put a bow on their regular season on Sunday when they travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State. The Seminoles (18-11, 9-8) are looking for a signature win to help sew up an NCAA Tournament berth and knocking off SU might be it. Syracuse needs to win to hold onto the second seed in the ACC Tournament, not to mention just righting their ship, in general.

FSU features three players averaging double digits in scoring, led by Aaron Thomas’ 14.1 points per game. Ian Miller (13.6 pts/game) and Okaro White (13.1 pts/game) also are threats, the former knocking down a team-best 54 three-pointers and the latter leading the squad with 6.5 rebounds per game.

The game is set for a 2:00pm Eastern tip-off at the Dome with the ACC Regional Sports Network providing television coverage (check your local listings). The game will, however, 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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