Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Orange Falls to UNC, Loses Third ACC Game

By Jessica Eley

Chapel Hill, N.C. -

courtesy of Cuse.com
Standout performances from junior guard Trevor Cooney, and senior center Rakeem Christmas weren't enough for an upset Monday night as the Syracuse Orange fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels 93-83.

"I felt we played well, I thought North Carolina just had a great second half," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.

Cooney finished with 28 points and Christmas had 22 and 12 rebounds. Michael Gbinije had 16 points and Tyler Roberson 13 for SU.

Marcus Paige led UNC with 22 points including 3-4 from three point range and Nate Britt chipped in 17 including four 3-pointers. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson also had 17 points apiece.

The Tar Heels outrebounded the Orange 42-27.


The Orange (14-7, 5-3 ACC) ran neck-and-neck with the No. 13 Tar Heels (17-4, 6-1 ACC), through most of the game as they capitalized on the UNC's season high 20 turnovers. Thirteen of the 20 turnovers came in the first half. SU converted the Carolina turnovers into 16 points.

With those converted turnovers, Cooney got the hot hand. He scored 15 of his 28 points, making three of eight from outside the arc.

The half ended with a breakaway layup by Kaleb Joseph at the buzzer giving the Orange a 40-35 lead. The breakaway followed SU's steal of an in-bounds pass by UNC.

Second Half

Carolina came out hot in the second half, but Syracuse still looked in control of the game.

After several lead changes, a Meeks free throw gave the Tar Heels the lead for good with 8:40 left. The Orange fell behind down the stretch by as many as 11 points.

UNC had 58 points and four blocks in the second half, compared to SU's 43 points.

"It was a very physical game," Christmas said. "This was one of those games that you've just got to play through. That's what we've got to do for the rest of the year."


The 6'9" Christmas struggled scoring in the first half. He had the 6'8" Isaiah Hicks and 6'9" - 270 pound Meeks playing a very physical defense on him.

"They were throwing a bunch of big bodies at me," Christmas said. "You've just got to play through it."

Christmas only scored two points from inside the paint during the first half. Although he struggled with scoring, his aggressiveness got him six chances from the free throw line, all of which he made.

Christmas finished with his seventh double-double of the season and went ten-for-ten on free throws.

"He's played great for us...from the first game, he's been tremendous," Boeheim said. "We just don't have enough size to help him. It's not just the rebounding, but defensively as well."

Up Next

The Orange has a week off before taking on Virginia Tech at the Dome on Tuesday, February 3.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Strong second half helps Orange win over Wolfpack

Story by Thomas Zhou
Photos by Danielle Kennedy

Syracuse, N.Y- A tremendous second half Sunday afternoon at the Carrier Dome enabled the Syracuse women’s basketball team to beat North Carolina State the first time in their five meetings.

The No. 23/22 Orange (15-5,5-2 ACC) used a 23-0 run early in the second half to seal the win over the Wolfpack (12-8, 3-4). Syracuse outscored NC State, 40-20, in the second half to win 66-49. 

"I changed the pace and I changed the defense,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “It really bothered them.”
Sophomore guard Alexis Peterson sparked the Orange with a game-leading 21 points and four assists. This is her 13th consecutive game with double figures since last Dec. 4 against Penn State. Sophomore center Briana Day added 11 points and 16 rebounds, posting her 10th double-double in the season. She also had seven blocked shots, which tied her career-best record. Junior guard Brianna Butler contributed 15 points. She shot 4-of-7 in the second half from behind the arc after shooting 1-of-6 from three-point range in the first half.

That strong second half followed a seesaw first one where the score was tied four times and the lead changed six. After Syracuse took the lead at the 16:45 mark in the second half, it never gave up the lead again.

"It's good to be able to protect our home court," Hillsman said. "I thought that was one of the most important things for us.

"In this game it was coming out and protecting home court in conference because we know how hard it is to win on the road. It's the best conference in the country and when you go to other peoples' courts, it's really tough. No matter how good you play, it is going to be tough on the road."

Tremendous afternoon for Peterson and Day
Peterson scored seven consecutive points for the Orange to give Syracuse a 7-6 lead after NC State knocked down a pair of three-point attempts to start the game. She had 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the first half. Day had six of her seven blocked shots in that period.

During that 23-2 run, Peterson contributed seven points and dished out three assists. Day had five points, including an and-one play. She made a left-hand layup, drew the foul, and made the free throw.
“I think we have just picked up our energy, our intensity,” Peterson said. “We started to get stops and make some baskets. We just turned this over and got excited. That motivated us and we wanted to keep the energy high. We put more pressure on defense and it worked out for us pretty well.”
Peterson showed aggressiveness attacking the rim. She made 12 of 15 free throws. Perhaps the only blemish was that she only went 1-of-7 from behind the arc.

“I struggled today from the three point line,” Peterson said. “I am not going to lie, but I took every shot with confidence. Like coach said we can't get gun-shy. I know in the next game I will be able to knock them down.”

Up next
The Orange will try to extend its winning streak to six on the road against Louisville. The game will begin at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 29.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Free Throw Struggles Crush Orange Down the Stretch in 66-62 Loss to Miami (Fl.)

Story and Photos by Josh Carney

Syracuse, N.Y. - Rakeem Christmas scored 18 second-half points for Syracuse, but missed free throws derailed the Orange’s upset bid against the Miami Hurricanes in Saturday’s 66-62 loss in front of 30,677 fans at the Carrier Dome.

For the second straight game the Orange struggled down the stretch from the free throw line, but this time it ultimately cost the team a game that it could have won. On the night the Orange finished 8-for-19 from the line, including an intentional miss on one final free throw attempt from Christmas, who finished 5-of-11 from the line in the loss.

This game we played more than well enough to win,” head coach Jim Boeheim said.  “You can’t miss those free throws; we’re not that good. If we miss 11 free throws in the next game, we’ll lose. That’s all this game is. You can ask a million questions about as many plays. They’re going to make some good plays; we’re going to make some good plays, that’s the way it is.

“We made a couple bad turnovers we haven’t made but overall this game was one thing. That’s all it was, nothing else. We make some free throws we win the game. Bottom line.”

Miami starts hot

Right from the opening tip the Hurricanes appeared locked in from beyond the arc as forward Omar Sherman and guard Davon Reed each knocked down a 3-pointer to help Miami race out to a 10-1 lead just under five minutes into the game.

In that same span, Hurricanes center, Tonye Jekiri, dominated the offensive glass over Christmas, providing the ‘Canes with multiple opportunities that they cashed in on. Miami led by as much as 24-14 in the first half before the Orange clawed back to tie the game at 26-26 heading into the half led by Trevor Cooney and Kaleb Joseph each knocking down a 3-pointer of their own.

Sophomore forward Tyler Roberson was equally important on the glass in the first half, ripping down eight rebounds, including three offensive boards. Christmas made a layup from the left block right before the half ended to tie the game, yet finished just 1-of-4 from the free throw line in a sign of things to come for the Orange.

"I thought he played well and did a lot of good, positive things today," Boeheim said of Roberson. "He rebounded it well and played excellent, I thought."

Echoing Boeheim, Christmas said Roberson was a big part of the attack early on.

"Tyler did a great job in the first half," Christmas said. "He was getting to the basket and getting fouled. He came up big for us while others struggled.”

Christmas, himself struggled his way to five first-half points

Roberson finished 4-of-10 from the floor in the first half before the Hurricanes started to guard him more closely in the second half.

Canes heat up again

Much like the start of the game, the Hurricanes raced out to another fast start in the second half – this time a 16-6 run – to put the Orange on its heels. Reed and senior guard Angel Rodriguez fueled the run by knocking down two 3-pointers each, while Jekiri started to get to the basket with ease, providing the Hurricanes with a lethal inside-out game in the second half.

"I thought their big guy [Jekiri] made him take tough shots in the first half and in the second half he got to the basket," Boeheim said. "In the first half he settled for shots from eight-to-10 feet and that's a tough shot. Second half he got to the basket and really had a great second half.
“He played phenomenal."

Orange fight back again
After a quick Syracuse timeout, Christmas began to take over for Syracuse on his way to 18 second-half points to bring the Orange within one point – 60-59 - with 54 seconds left.

“Christmas is a great player,” Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said. “He’s a first round NBA draft choice. I think he’s got to be in serious consideration for ACC Player of the Year, for sure.”

Coming out of a Miami timeout, guard Manu Lecomte drilled a 3-pointer to put Miami up 63-59 before Cooney answered with a tough three of his own to bring SU back within one point. From there, Rodriguez sank two free throws for Miami before Cooney air-balled a 3-point attempt and Christmas missed two free throws. Sheldon McClellan sank one of two free throws to ice the game, sending Syracuse to its second loss of the year in ACC play.

““I thought we battled as hard as we could all day. We did everything we could do to have an opportunity to win a game,” Boeheim said.  “When you play a good team and they’re playing well, you know you can’t miss 11 free throws. That’s really the ballgame. We did everything we could to get back in it, two deficits, overcame two 10-point deficits, first half, second half.
“You go to the free throw line in those situations you have to make those free throws, but we played hard and we battled as hard as we could, gave a great effort. But this game comes down to being able to make those free throws in those situations.”

Throughout the game, Syracuse failed to knock down two straight free throws. Coming into the game against Miami the Orange was close to 70 percent from the free throw line, including Christmas who was third on the team in free throw shooting percentage at 72.9 percent, trailing Cooney (76.5) and Joseph (73.2).

“We do it [make free throws] in practice,” Christmas said. “We have to be able to do it in the game…just have to go in there and be confident in yourself. But stuff happens. You win some, you lose some. We’re going to put this behind us and focus on Monday.

“At the end of the day you can overcome those free throws but you really have to play well to do it, and we played pretty good today but we couldn’t overcome it.”
The Orange will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., for a primetime matchup with North Carolina at 7 p.m., Monday.


Miami:  Forward Sheldon McClellan had scored in double figures in 14 straight games and in 15 total games this season, but he finished with seven against Syracuse, snapping the streak. ... The `Canes had connected on nine or more 3-pointers in three of the previous four games. Against the Orange, Miami hit 10-of-29 threes.

Syracuse: Michael Gbinije (9 points) had a run of six straight double-figure scoring games, all in ACC play. ..The combined record of Syracuse's first six ACC foes this season was 54-56 (5-29) overall. The combined record for its next eight opponents, excluding replays with Virginia Tech and Boston College, is 121-31 (34-14) overall.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Despite Foul Trouble, Syracuse Defeats Boston College for Fifth ACC Win

Story and photo by Jessica Eley

Syracuse, N.Y. - The Syracuse Orange defeated the Boston College Eagles 69-61,Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome, despite losing one its most consistent players to foul trouble for nearly half the game.

Senior center Rakeem Christmas played just 23 minutes before fouling out late in the second half, but SU head basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, said other players stepped up.

“First time in a long time that Rak had really big foul trouble. and i thought Mike (Gbinije) really...Mike and Trevor (Cooney) at the end of the first half really took over. I thought they just played great," Boeheim said.

All five starters Gbinije, Tyler Roberson, Christmas Cooney and Kaleb Joseph scored in  double digits.

Eagles start fast

Boston College (8-9, 0-5 ACC) jumped to a quick 9-2 lead in the first half on a pair of 3-point shots by Aaron Brown and a third by Dimitri Batten..

BC led until Christmas put the Orange (14-5, 5-1 ACC) ahead 15-13 with a layup at the 10:37 mark. The Eagles were never regained the lead.

Christmas went on to score three more points, extending SU's lead to 18-13. Although he led SU in points in the first half, he also managed to get into foul trouble, going to the bench with his third at the 4:42 mark.

The junior guard, Gbinije was second in scoring in the first half with nine points. "We came out with a win," Gbinije said. "I was aggressive tonight and hopefully we can continue that."

The half ended on a hustling layup by Cooney after a Gbiniije miss, giving the Orange an 18-point advantage at 35-17.

Christmas sits
The Eagles closed the gap early in  the second half and Christmas picked up his fourth personal foul. He then sat out for more than ten minutes before reentering the game. Seldom-used center Chinoso Obokoh played 16 minutes filling in.

"The idea was to protect the lead, knowing Rak could be out at any time," Boeheim said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of that."

The Orange increased its lead from nine points to ten with Christmas on the bench.

Orange Trouble at the line

SU missed capitalizing on points by only made 8 out of 16 from the free throw line with under two minutes to go and Christmas fouling out with only 1:51 left to go in the game almost cost The Orange. 

"You gotta make your foul shots, you gotta make better plays in that situation and we didn't do that," Boeheim said.

BC got within six points, but that wasn't enough. A field goal from Cooney and two points from Joseph at the foul line ended the game for the Eagles.

SU is in third place in the ACC with the win against Boston College.

Up next, the Orange faces the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Dome.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Syracuse Uses Strong Second Half Performance to Defeat Boston College, 64-46

By Julia Morris

Bria Day had only one basket for the Syracuse Orange in its game against Boston College on Sunday afternoon – but she made it count.  Filling in as a starter for her sister Briana Day, who injured her ankle in the Orange’s last game against Wake Forest, Bria took a shot beneath Syracuse’s basket in the second half.  Although it was quickly swatted away by BC’s Karima Gabriel, Day was not discouraged – she grabbed the ball following the block and put it back in, despite being fouled and falling to her knees after the shot. 

“I was just trying to help my team as much as possible,” Day said.  “Thinking just be smart, don’t do anything crazy and just make the easy play.”

The Syracuse bench erupted and the basket put the Orange up 37-29 with 14:50 left in the game.  From there, the momentum shifted in favor of Syracuse and the Orange (13-5, 3-2 ACC) would never look back, defeating the Eagles (8-10, 0-3 ACC) on their home court at Conte Forum by a final score of 64-46.

Despite Morrison’s Hot Start, Eagles Keep it Close in the First Half

While Day’s basket was the start of a dominant offensive performance by the Orange in the second half, the first half was a different story. The teams battled back and forth and each seemed to answer every time the other scored, leading to a total of six ties and five lead changes. Both teams also struggled to maintain possession, with five combined turnovers in the first four minutes of play.

Nicole Boudreau, who is averaging 12 points a game for the Eagles this season, hit a three-pointer with 13:58 remaining in the first half to give BC an early 12-9 lead.  However, Maggie Morrison entered the game for the Orange a little over a minute later and provided a spark for the Syracuse offense.  She launched her first three-pointer and it banked in off the glass to tie the game at 14 with 10:58 to go.  

“When it banked in you just have to smile,” Morrison said. “It was a momentum builder for myself knowing that even though I banked it, my first one went in which is always good.”

Morrison would take that momentum and hit her next two three’s.  She led all scorers with nine points at the end of the first half.  However, despite her hot shooting, Syracuse led by only two points at the break.  BC was able to stay in the game because of its strong rebounding - the Eagles got 28 rebounds in the first half compared to the Orange’s 16. 

“When you’re playing a three-point shooting team there’s going to be a lot of long rebounds so we just talked about putting more effort into that side of the floor,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. 

Orange Dominates Offensively and on the Glass in the Second Half  

And the Orange did make an improved effort in the second half, both on the rebounding end and offensively, scoring 40 second-half points and out-rebounding the Eagles 28-21. Day led the way for the Orange with 11 total rebounds.

“I thought Bria was tremendous,” Coach Hillsman said.  “I think it was the best game that she has had here in her career and hopefully she can continue to play tough for us.”

Right before Day hit her big second chance basket, Taylor Ford made a critical three-point play down low. With 16:30 to go in the game Ford, who scored 13 of her team-leading 15 points in the second half, got fouled on a layup.  She made the basket and her free throw, putting the Orange up 33-26.  At the time, the six-point lead was the largest lead of the game for the Orange.

“I was being aggressive and every time the guards passed it off to me I made sure to finish the layups,” Ford said.

Syracuse’s offense continued to roll after that.  Brianna Butler, who struggled early on and made only one of her first nine field goals, connected from behind the arc with 13:40 to go to put Syracuse up by 13 points, 42-29.  Then with 8:17 left in the game, Butler connected for another three, putting Syracuse up 52-37.
“I thought she made some timely threes for us and it got us up a little bit and as long as we can continue getting her to take good shots we’re going to be okay,” Hillsman said.

While Butler made some big shots from behind the arc, the Eagles’ Ashley Kelsick made the final three-pointer of the game as time was winding down.  Kelsick scored 11 points and led the Eagles in scoring along with Emilee Daley, who had 11 points of her own.

 “We were able to use Emilee in the high post and get her some nice looks… and we were able to penetrate their zone a little bit and that’s where she got a couple of nice jump shots,” BC coach Erik Johnson said.

Despite Daley's offensive contributions, BC could not overcome the Orange’s strong second half efforts.  The Eagles also turned the ball over a total of 23 times during the game.  Those mistakes combined with Syracuse's second half scoring and rebounding were the difference maker in the game.

Next Up

Syracuse will look to build on its three-game win streak when the team travels to Pittsburgh on Thursday to take on the Panthers. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

Boston College is still searching for its first ACC win of the year.  The Eagles will host Duke on Thursday. Tip off is at 7 p.m.

Clemson Lights Up the Orange, Syracuse Suffers First ACC Loss

By Lizzy Gomez

Clemson, S.C. ---- Eighteen points — the fewest scored by the Orange before halftime in any game this season.

In sharp contrast, the Clemson Tigers scored basket after basket, taking a 21-point halftime lead on the way to their 66-53 win over Syracuse on Saturday afternoon in Littlejohn Coliseum, ending a seven-game win streak by the Orange.
It’s the first ACC loss for Syracuse this season after the Orange went 4-0 to start conference play.

Christmas Carries the Orange

While the Orange ended the day shooting 37 percent from the field and just 13 percent from three-point range, Rakeem Christmas put up his sixth double-double of the season, accounting for 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said Christmas stands out as one of the elite talents in college basketball.

“He’s probably the best center in the country, that’s all I can say,” Boeheim said. “Based on his numbers, what he’s doing, he’s been tremendous. They’re doubling him every time, they’re fouling him every play, and he just keeps playing unbelievably.”

At the end of the first half, Christmas was 5 of 7 from the field for 11 points.

His teammates were a combined 2 for 21 heading into the locker room.

Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell said his players went into the game with a mission to minimize the effectiveness of the Syracuse senior.

“They weren’t allowed to just throw the ball to Christmas and that was going to be their offense,” Brownell said. “We made it hard for him to get the ball.”
The 6’9 center performed well in several aspects of the game, making jumpers and fighting for offensive rebounds, even with a Clemson double-team on him all afternoon.

But even an impressive performance by Christmas couldn’t help the Orange come home with the win.

Tigers Don’t Miss

Just three games ago, the Orange managed to defeat Georgia Tech despite shooting a season-low 34 percent from the field and putting only 46 points on the scoreboard.

But that was when the competition was shooting in a similarly poor fashion.

Clemson, on the other hand, seemed like it couldn’t be stopped.The Tigers shot 45 percent from the field, making 23 of 51 attempts.

The real advantage, though, came from behind the three-point line.

Clemson went 8 of 20 from long range, while the Orange put just 2 of 15 three-pointers through the basket.

The threes kept falling for the Tigers and the crowd, covered in orange from courtside to the very top row, erupted with cheers as four Clemson players had at least one three-pointer by the end of the game.

Poor Production from Gbinije and Cooney

On the other side the court, Michael Gbinije was the lone Syracuse player to find any kind of success from beyond the arc.

The junior guard made 2 of his 5 three-point attempts, but went just 4-12 from the field.

Gbinije finished the afternoon with 11 points and 2 rebounds.

Trevor Cooney took five long-range shots, but failed to make a basket on any of his attempts.

Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame said the Tigers planned to take Cooney out of the game as a deep-threat by putting him up against staunch defender, Rod Hall.

“[Cooney] is an unbelieveable three-point shooter, but Rod is probably our best defender,” Blossomgame said. “We figured that would make a pretty good matchup for Rod. He did his job tonight.”

But even with the Clemson game plan aimed at keeping the scoring opportunities away from Cooney, the junior had open shots.

He just couldn’t make them.

After averaging 25 points in his last two games, Cooney never found his rhythm against the Tigers, going 0-7 from the field.

“It’s the worst I’ve played, shooting-wise,” Cooney said. “I had some good looks. It didn’t go in.”

Cooney finished the game with just five points, all made at the foul line.

Boeheim said the Orange need to see more production from the two juniors.

For us to play well, Trevor [Cooney] and Michael [Gbinije] have to score,” Boeheim said. “If they don’t score, we’re going to have problems.”

Rebounding the Bigger Problem

Despite a below-average shooting night for the Orange where only four players managed to score, Boeheim said a lack of offensive rebounding ultimately cost Syracuse the win.

“The offensive rebounding was the game,” Boeheim said. “When we got stops in the first half, three or four times in a row, whenever we did play good defense and stopped them, they got four putbacks. We haven’t really had that happen this year.”

The Tigers scored 21 points off second-chance opportunities against the Orange.

Moving Forward from the Loss

After failing to win the rebound battle against Clemson, Syracuse looks to rebound from its first loss in eight games when it hosts Boston College (8-8, 0-4) on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

The Orange men now stand at 13-5 on the season and 4-1 in the ACC.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Alexis Peterson Makes a Statement in Syracuse's 73-62 Win Over Wake Forest

Story by Robin Deehan
Photo by Jonathan Kahn

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – In a game where a team scores 73 total points, it’s hard to believe that just one person was the catalyst.

But Thursday night in the Carrier Dome, that’s exactly what happened.

Point guard Alexis Peterson scored a career-best 32 points and committed just one turnover in her 39 minutes on the floor to lead the No. 25/24 Syracuse Orange to a 73-62 win over ACC rival Wake Forest.

“She won the game for us, period,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said.  “This is the best point guard performance of my nine years here by far.”

The sophomore was 10-for-15 from the field, 4-for-7 from the three-point line and 8-for-10 from the free throw line.

Peterson attributed her stellar play to her supporting cast.

"I came out and played with a lot of confidence," Peterson said. "My teammates really keep me motivated and keep me going, they’re my biggest fans and I love them to death. A night like tonight doesn't happen if I don't have these players around me."

Peterson was so dominant that no other Syracuse player scored in double digits.

“It was tremendous to watch a player totally take a game over like that,” Hillsman said.

Syracuse Capitalizes

SU jumped out to an early lead thanks to the Demon Deacons going 0-for-12 from the field in the first 11 minutes of the game.

“I’m not sure why we started cold, maybe we’re in the north,” Wake Forest head coach Jen Hoover said. “We have not had that kind of start in the last three games in the ACC, we’ve actually been starting really well so we’ve got to go back and look at it a little bit.”

But once Wake Forest’s shots started to drop, the Orange women stepped up defensively converting 14 Wake Forest first half turnovers into 14 Syracuse points before heading into halftime with a 32-24 lead.

The Demon Deacons best chance at taking the lead came in the second half when Dearica Hamby went on a 6-0 run to come within two points of the Orange with only three minutes left to play.

But thanks to the clutch rebounding efforts of sophomore Briana Day and Peterson’s hot hand, the Orange extended the lead back to a comfortable 11 points as time expired.

Day finished with six points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks to go with Peterson’s 32 points to help the Orange improve to 12-5 on the season and 2-2 in ACC play.

And despite Hamby’s best efforts, Wake Forest dropped to 9-9 overall and 0-4 in ACC play.

Up Next

The Orange will travel to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to face Boston College this Sunday.

The Eagles are 8-9 overall and 0-3 in conference play.

Tip off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Syracuse Outlasts Wake Forest in ‘Tremendous’ Overtime Win, 86-83

Story and photo by Emily Dick.

Syracuse, N.Y.—The Syracuse Men’s basketball team has had its fair share of dramatic “down to the wire” games in ACC conference play this season.

Tuesday night was no different.

Syracuse came back from a nine-point second half deficit to beat Wake Forest, 86-83 in overtime, but only after Cornelius Hudson's desperation three-quarter court shot rimmed out as time expired.

The announced Carrier Dome crowd of 23,367 let out a collective sigh of relief.

Head coach Jim Boeheim said he was happy the team was able to play through fatigue after beating Florida State, 70-57, just two nights earlier.

“We were tired,” Boeheim said after the game. “Sunday night at 8 p.m. (against Florida State), then coming back Tuesday is difficult. I think it's very difficult to ask players to do that. I thought we did get tired, but even when we were tired we made plays. We made really good plays.”

“I thought we overcame a lot today in this game. I thought it was a tremendous, tremendous win.”

The win was fueled by an incredible offensive performance by senior Rakeem Christmas, who scored a career-high 35 points.

The key for Christmas? He said he doesn’t pressure himself to score and lets it come naturally.

“You don't really think about it (scoring),” Christmas said. “I’m just out there helping my teammates by going out there and being aggressive. Trying to give it my all.”

The Syracuse big man is known for contributing rebounds (nine against Wake), but it was his clutch overtime free throws that made the difference Tuesday night.

Another Close One
With 2.4 seconds left in the first half, it looked as if Syracuse would go into the locker room with a 2-point lead, but the Demon Deacon’s Codi Miller-McIntyre had a different plan.

McIntyre threw up a near-half court shot to give Wake Forest a 37-36 lead at the half.

Wake took that momentum into the second half, extending its lead to as much as nine points early on. The Deacons kept their lead until a Tyler Roberson jumper tied the game at 58 for Syracuse with less than seven minutes left in regulation.

Christmas buried two free throws at the 1:41 mark to put Syracuse on top. At 14 seconds left, Wake Forest answered with a Hudson 3-pointer that tied the game, 71-71.

SU junior guard Michael Gbinije got free for a drive to the basket as time ran down but missed the layup and after a Deacons' heave missed, the game went into overtime..

Syracuse got out to an early lead in overtime, but quickly went back and forth with Wake Forest in a game that saw 14 lead changes. Gbinije scored a quick five points to secure the Orange lead with two minutes left. All Syracuse had to do was make foul shots.

Christmas, who’s been shooting 73 percent from the line all season, then made six straight free throws to keep the Deacons from coming back a final time.

Team Effort

Christmas wasn’t the only one who stepped up late in the game. Gbinije added 17 points, even with a slow start. The guard scored only one point in the first half.

“We challenged Mike (Gbinije) at halftime,” Boeheim said. “We can't win when Mike disappears like that. He was much more aggressive in the second half, and some of it came because he had the ball at the point.”

“We need Mike," redshirt junior Trevor Cooney said after the game. "We need Mike to score, we need Mike to do what he can do,”

Cooney scored 21 points of his own, including five 3-pointers, and caused four Demon Deacon turnovers.

Sophomore Ron Patterson also got some time in the second half. The guard started a Syracuse run with a 3-pointer, followed by a steal that led to a Gbinije 3-pointer seconds later.

“We wanted to get somebody that would get something going to the basket,” Boeheim said of his reason to sub Patterson in late in the game. “(Patterson) made some plays. It doesn’t show, his numbers don’t look good, but he made some plays that led to something else.”

Holding off the Demon Deacons

For much of the game, the Syracuse defense had no answer for Wake Forest freshman Konstantinos Mitoglou, a 6’10” forward from Greece.

Mitoglou was averaging just 7.6 points per game this season, but Tuesday night he came off the bench to score 26 points.

At one point in the second half, Mitoglou was 9-9 from the field, 3-3 from 3-point range, and 2-2 at the line. That’s shooting 100 percent in every shooting category.

Eventually though, Mitoglou did miss.

Miller-McIntyre added 24 points for the Deacons and Hudson stepped in with some late-game heroics. The only basket he made all game was the 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

However, Miller-McIntyre missed a crucial one-and-one free throw with 11 seconds left in overtime that would have narrowed the margin for Wake.

The Demon Deacons fell to 9-9 for the season and 1-4 in the ACC.

Up Next

The Syracuse Orange (13-4, 4-0 ACC) will take on the Clemson Tigers (9-7, 1-3 ACC) in Littlejohn Coliseum this Saturday, January 17 at 4 p.m. ACCN will broadcast the game.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cooney's Hot Hand Leads Syracuse over Florida State, 70-57

By Julia Morris

Early in the first half of Syracuse's game against Florida State, Trevor Cooney got the ball from behind the arc and took one dribble, fired and hit nothing but net – and he was just getting started.

After that first three Cooney would hit six more from behind the arc, finishing the night with 28 points in Syracuse’s (12-4, 3-0 ACC) 70-57 win over Florida State (9-7, 1-2 ACC) on Sunday night at the Carrier Dome.

“I got a couple early and it felt good,” Cooney said. “When I make shots, it extends the defense and we’re able to get some easy ones."

Cooney Gets Going

Cooney got hot quickly in the first half, making four of seven from behind the arc.  His first three pointer of the night gave Syracuse an early 7-4 lead with 16:40 remaining in the half.  He hit another with 11:42 to go in the first.  on the Orange’s next possession, Michael Gbinije followed with a three-pointer of his own, putting Syracuse up 18-10.

“Our offense was good and it was really encouraging,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said.  “This was our best offensive game since the first half of the Virginia Tech game.”

After Florida State got the ball back following Gbinije's three, Cooney forced an FSU turnover, one of eight in the first half for the Seminoles.  Florida State also struggled from the field. The team has been playing without one of its biggest offensive contributers, guard Aaron Thomas, since mid-December when he was declared ineligible for the rest of the season. The Seminoles made only eight of their 26 attempts from the field and none of their eight attempts from behind the arc in the first half.

“Coach wanted us to get on all of their shooters and make them take tough shots and that’s what we were doing,” SU center Rakeem Christmas said.

While Florida State has been playing without one of its starters, Syracuse lost one of its own early in the first half. Freshman Chris McCullough tried to catch a long pass by Kaleb Joseph but he landed awkwardly on his leg and fell to the floor.  McCullough had to be helped off the court and did not return to the game.  There was no update on the details of his injury after the game.

Seminoles Rally in Second Half but Cooney’s Hot Hand Too Much to Overcome

Syracuse had a 35-22 lead heading into the break, but Florida State came out fighting in the second half, improving to 48-percent shooting from the field.  However, every time Florida State seemed to gain momentum, Cooney had an answer.  With 13:19 left in the game, Florida State's Jarquez Smith threw down a one-handed slam off an offensive rebound - but on the Orange's next possession Cooney quickly quieted any FSU excitement over the dunk by hitting a three and putting Syracuse up 50-36.

The Seminoles got close again with about five minutes left in the game.  Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who led the Seminoles with 14 points, hit a free throw to cut the Orange lead to nine.  However, on Syracuse’s next possession Cooney hit his sixth three-pointer to put Syracuse back ahead by double digits.

“He was coming off those screens and popping them and knocking them down like he knew they were supposed to go in…he was on fire,” Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I was shaking my head a couple of times saying my goodness I wish he had waited one more game before he got that feeling.”

Along with Cooney’s strong offensive performance, Christmas and Gbinije also finished the night in double digit scoring.  Christmas totaled 14 points and Gbinije had 11. Christmas also played well on defense, finishing the night with five blocks.
“Rak is full of life for us and this was his best defensive game," Boeheim said. "He blocked some shots, he was active on the defensive end - I thought he was very solid.”

Kaleb Joseph, who has struggled this season with turnovers, also turned in a solid performance at point guard.  He finished the game with seven assists and only one turnover.

“I’m seeing things I didn’t see before," Joseph said.  "I’m listening to the coaching staff and trying to develop as a player and the more I listen and try to embrace everything the better I’ll be."

One of Joseph’s assists was to Cooney for his seventh and final three-pointer of the night.  Just as he started out hot early in the first half, Cooney finished strong in the second and his last three put the Orange up 67-52 with about three minutes to go.  Although Florida State scored five points in the final minute of the game, the Seminoles' efforts were not enough to overcome Cooney’s sharp shooting and the Orange’s strong offensive performance.

Next Up

Syracuse has now won six in a row and is 3-0 in ACC play.  Next up, the Orange will host Wake Forest on Tuesday night at the Dome.  Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.

Florida State returns to the court on Wednesday.  The Seminoles will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers at 9 p.m.