With California big men Richard Solomon missing the game with an eye injury and David Kravish temporarily sidelined with four fouls in the second half, #8 Syracuse took advantage, unleashing a 12-2 outburst that propelled them to a 92-81 victory in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Totaling 51 points in the game, Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney both had sensational efforts for the Orange (6-0), the latter posting eight points in the decisive run.
SU put forth their best offensive effort of the young season against the Golden Bears (5-1), mostly due to strong shooting in all facets, posting marks of 53.4 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, and 23-of-24 from the free throw line. That last number boosted their proficiency at the stripe to 88.2 percent while in Maui.
A hint of things to come, Trevor Cooney opened his second straight game in the tourney with a three-pointer to get the Orange going, then Tyler Ennis put together a three of his own and a lay-up to give Syracuse a 10-6 lead just over five minutes into the game. California came back to grab the lead, then later used an 8-2 run to grab control at 19-14 near the midpoint of the opening half.
Baye Keita and Jerami Grant each got a dunk, then C.J. Fair knocked down a shot to put SU back in the lead, but Cal used a three-point play to regain a two-point margin. The two teams alternated scores until consecutive Golden Bear baskets gave them a 30-26 lead with under five minutes on the clock.
Syracuse needed less than two-and-a-half minutes to rip off an 11-3 run to take a 37-33 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. California scrapped back, eventually knotting the score at 41 a side at intermission.
The Golden Bears got the opening basket of the second half, but Ennis made a lay-in and a trey as part of seven straight points to regain the lead for SU. California would not go quietly, though, rattling off a 9-3 run to square the score at 54 just over seven minutes into the session.
Grant chose this as an opportune time to assert himself, scoring eight of the next ten points for SU as they grabbed a 64-59 lead. While carrying the offensive load for the Orange, Grant also hung the third and fourth fouls of the game on Golden Bear forward David Kravish, sending him to the bench. Grant then closed his spree with a dunk that triggered nine straight Syracuse points that lifted the Orange to a 71-59 lead with 6:33 to play.
Cal sliced the margin to 76-69 with just over three minutes remaining, but SU notched the next four points to regain a double figure lead. The Golden Bears matched those four points, then went to a full-court press defense and started fouling. The Orange took it in stride, burying four consecutive free throws, then came up with steals on consecutive defensive stands that both led to lay-ups, the latter putting SU out front, 88-75. Cooney and Ennis each sank a pair at the line in the final minute, capping both their strong efforts and the Syracuse victory.
Tyler Ennis had a breakout game, scoring a personal-best 28 points, including 17 points in the second half, and his game total tied third place for points by a freshman in SU history. Ennis, who had been searching for his shot for most of the season, made 9-of-12 shots and all eight of his free throws. Trevor Cooney canned five three-pointers as he dropped in 23 points on the night. Jerami Grant fouled out, but not before he rang up 19 points and a game-high eight rebounds off the bench. C.J. Fair also reached double figures, finishing with 14 points. Ennis and Fair each had three steals in the game, as well.
California had four players in double digits in the scoring column. Justin Cobbs had 18 points while Jabari Bird had 17. David Kravish piled up 15 points prior to fouling out and Jordan Mathews chipped in a dozen off the pine.
SU will play in their third championship game in the in as many Maui Invitational appearances on Wednesday when they meet up with #18 Baylor. The Bears, who feature four players averaging double digits in scoring, ran their record to 6-0 on the season Monday night with a come-from-behind 67-66 win over Dayton in the other semifinal. ESPN will televise the title tilt, which is slated for a 10:00pm Eastern tip-off.