Syracuse holds off Boston College despite foul trouble for Rakeem Christmas

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Syracuse got seven assists from Kaleb Joseph

After a disappointing effort at Clemson over the weekend, Syracuse continued their lackluster play in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s home game against Boston College. After a brief slumber, the Orange (14-5, 5-1 ACC) roared to life, using a pair of big first half runs to gain a lead the Eagles (8-9, 0-5) could not come back from, finishing with a 69-61 win.

Even with center Rakeem Christmas struggling with fouls, SU had a significant advantage in the paint, outscoring BC by a 30-12 margin, including a 22-2 gap in the first half. While entering the game as a weak-shooting team, BC opted to try 29 triples, hitting ten of them. The problem was they only shot 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) inside the arc.

The game started in ugly fashion for Syracuse, as BC splashed three shots from beyond the arc in less than two-and-a-half minutes as they opened a 9-2 lead. Another three nudged the Eagles’ lead to eight points, but the Orange offense roared to life as the hosts scored 18 of the game’s next 19 points, closing the burst with 14 straight points.

Michael Gbinije and Rakeem Christmas did most of the heavy lifting during the burst. Gbinije started things off with a jumper, then tacked on a three-ball that started a string of 14 straight points and a lay-up that tied the score at 13 a side. Christmas then dropped in one lay-up and had another as the beginning of a three-point play. Each player hit a jumper and Syracuse found themselves in front by a 22-13 margin with more than 6:19 on the clock.

BC clipped a pair of points off the lead, but SU closed the half with 11 unanswered points. Tyler Roberson and Trevor Cooney owned this run, as the two players either scored or assisted on every point.

» Related: Syracuse heading into tough stretch

After Roberson set up Ron Patterson for a wide-open lay-up, he matched that basket. Cooney knocked down a trey, then Roberson buried two shots from the stripe. Just before the halftime horn, Cooney raced in and collected an offensive rebound that bounced off the hardwood in a cluster of Eagles and laid it in for two with just over a second on the clock. The hustle play sent the Orange into the locker room with a 35-17 lead.

After each team posted a pair of free throws to start the second half, Boston College went on another strong run. This one was nine straight points to halve the Syracuse lead, making it a 37-28 game with less than four minutes elapsed.

The Orange responded with a 9-3 run, scoring in clusters to regain control. Gbinije had a pretty three-point play to start the burst. On the heels of a BC trey, Cooney hit one from deep, then Gbinije splashed one of his own to give SU a 46-31 lead with 13:31 to go.

SU was in cruise control from there, keeping the margin between ten and 15 points for the next ten minutes and change.

After a Roberson jumper restored the Orange lead to 14 with just under three minutes on the clock, BC began a furious rally, aided by some SU shortcomings at the stripe. The Eagles would continuously score, then foul, to try to chip away at the Orange lead.

The strategy worked, as Syracuse would never make more than one shot at the line until the final 16 seconds of action. The Eagles fought back within six points, but the gap was simply too large. Kaleb Joseph would finally hit two foul shots with 16 seconds left to officially end the game.

Michael Gbnije led the way with 17 points as all five Syracuse starters reached double figures in scoring. Gbinije also led the Orange with eight rebounds.

Trevor Cooney added 15 points while Kaleb Joseph chipped in with 13, including 9-of-11 foul shots, to go with his seven assists against one turnover. Both guards picked up their games in the second half, Joseph dropping in 11 points and Cooney adding ten. Rakeem Christmas fought off foul trouble to finish with a dozen points while Tyler Roberson added ten.

Aaron Brown led all scorers on the night with 21 points for Boston College. Dimitri Batten had 17 points, including 14 after the break, and Olivier Hanlan poured in 13 second-half points after a scoreless opening half, the two powering the Eagles’ comeback. Patrick Heckmann added nine points and a game-high nine boards.

SU will close this modest two-game homestand on Saturday when Miami visits. The Hurricanes (12-5, 2-2), who upset #4 Duke a week ago, host North Carolina State on Thursday night prior to their trip north.

A very good shooting team, Miami is making 37.3 percent of their three-pointers on the season, led by guards Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, and Manu Lecomte, who have made 91 triples on the season at a 38.9 percent clip. Those three also average nearly 40 points per game as a trio.

ESPN 2 will televise the game, which is scheduled for a 4:00pm Eastern tip-off. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com.

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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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