A quick take on Syracuse’s 74-67 win over Baylor to win the Maui Invitational:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse, which had led comfortably for most of the second half, saw their 14-point lead disappear after a late 8-0 run from Baylor. But each time it appeared the Bears would get the game back into a one-possession contest, Syracuse had an answer. CJ Fair hit a pair of clutch jumpers, and Trevor Cooney followed with a pair of free throws to keep the lead at 6. Baylor would cut the lead to 5 with 20 seconds left after Brady Heslip hit a contested 3, but the Tyler Ennis calmly sank a pair of free throws and SU ran out the clock.
ANALYSIS: There were plenty of questions about Syracuse heading into the Maui Invitational. Jim Boeheim worried about where the offensive would come from after a scare against St. Francis. CJ Fair was the only proven returning scoring option, and there were plenty of variables around him. But Boeheim has plenty of answers after playing three games in three nights. For starters, Jerami Grant emerged as a legitimate second option behind Fair, scoring 19 points for the second straight night on a variety of impressive drives. Ennis proved he can be a lethal scoring option after he struggled with his shot early on. Cooney was hitting from downtown throughout the Invitational, but also was able to score by getting inside on a night when he was just 1-5 from distance. In other words, so much for worries on the offensive end. Defensively, Syracuse continues to struggle on the perimeter, as Baylor hit 9-19 from downtown and shot 55 percent from the field. But Boeheim’s zones have always improved throughout the course of the season, and this year will likely be no different.
HERO: One night after struggling against California, Fair was back on track, collecting a game-high 24 points on 10-17 shooting. Several of those baskets came in pressure situations with the Bears angling to make this a one-possession game. Ennis was once again impressive, playing with a level-headedness beyond his freshman title, finishing with 11 points, 9 assists, and more importantly, zero turnovers.
ZERO: Baylor may see zones in the Big 12, but not quite like the one that Syracuse has. The Bears looked confused attempting to probe the zone throughout the night, and committed 20 turnovers. Baylor’s three starting guards made up half of them.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will have an enjoyable trip back to Central New York before preparing to host Indiana in the ACC/Big 10 challenge on Dec. 3 at 7:15 p.m. TV: ESPN.