The No. 2-ranked Syracuse Orange earned a hard-fought 64-52 victory against the Miami (FL) Hurricanes in a Saturday afternoon showdown between the ACC opponents. It was the second time this season that Syracuse bested the Hurricanes.
Miami seemed to have figured out ‘Cuse’s patented zone defense at times, as the ‘Canes put together a much better offensive performance than their first meeting against the Orange.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the teams combined for 98 possessions in their matchup three weeks ago, resulting in a low-scoring, 49-44 win for ‘Cuse:
It was much different this time, as Miami shot 39.1 from the field and was dialed in from beyond the arc. The ‘Canes were able to keep it close by going 9-of-17 from three-point land.
However, Syracuse dominated on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 39 to 24. It helped that the basket looked equally as big for the Orange, as they hit on 44.7 percent of their field goal attempts and put in five of 11 shots from deep.
The game was close all the way up until the Orange broke it open in the final two minutes. While Syracuse took a 31-26 lead into the locker room, Miami had the momentum after mounting an 18-5 run to close the first half.
Chris Yandle, the Hurricanes assistant athletic director, warned at the time that teams coached by Jim Larranaga should not ever be taken lightly:
The Hurricanes just weren’t able to capitalize over the final 20 minutes of play, getting outscored 33-26 in the second half.
A discrepancy in foul calls worked to the advantage of Syracuse. The Orange were only whistled for 11 personal fouls, while the Hurricanes committed 20 violations.
At one point, Freeman and Fox of The Miami Times pondered if the referees had any intention of charging ‘Cuse with an offensive infraction, showing the frustration Miami fans felt:
It could have been worse, as the Orange missed out on 10 potential points by connecting on a mere 17 of their 27 attempts from the charity stripe.
Syracuse was clearly the better team and finished strong to seal its 19th straight victory. The Orange are now 6-0 in ACC play and battling with undefeated Arizona for the top spot in the AP and USA Today polls.
Boeheim talked about his team's penchant for close calls after the game, according to ESPN.com:
I don't care what our record is -- we've had seven games, including this one, that could have easily gone the other way. All seven games, somebody has made a play. That's a good attribute to have, but it also reminds you that you're perilously close to having three or four losses.
Despite the tough fight, Miami fell to 10-9 and 2-5 in the ACC. The Hurricanes are still seeking a signature win over a ranked opponent this season.
Let’s take a look at the players that stepped up and performed the best for each side.
C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse: A
C.J. Fair was dominant in this game, just as he has been all season. He put up 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the matchup.
It was yet another solid overall outing for the senior forward. He pushed his streak of double-digit scoring games to 15 straight games.
Fair is clearly the key to the Orange’s success and he’s been a large factor in their undefeated campaign thus far.
Rion Brown, G, Miami: B+
Rion Brown had the best overall performance for Miami, contributing 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists and one steal in a losing effort.
He was efficient against the zone, connecting on 5-of-9 field-goal attempts and buried three of his five treys.
While Brown wasn’t the team’s leading scorer—that honor goes to reserve Davon Reed, who put up 16 points off the bench—he was instrumental in the Hurricanes’ gritty showing.
Had he received more support from some of his poorer-performing teammates, the ‘Canes could have pulled off the massive upset.
Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse: A-
Jerami Grant stepped up to put Miami away on Saturday. The sophomore forward chipped in 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block on the afternoon.
This stat line was big, but his ability to draw fouls was even more important.
Syracuse’s official Twitter feed wasn’t even sure how many times the 'Canes were whistled trying to guard the lengthy swingman:
Miami may have managed to pull off the improbable win had it not been plagued by foul trouble, so give Grant a ton of credit for his efforts in this one.
Syracuse will look to move to 20-0 and 7-0 in conference play when it travels to Wake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 29. The Demon Deacons should not be discounted, as they are 13-6 on the season with a handful of quality wins, including a Jan. 5 victory over UNC.
It will be the first and only showdown between these two during the 2013-14 regular campaign. These historic programs have only clashed once before, back in November of 2001 when ‘Cuse eked out a 74-67 win in the Preseason NIT championship game.
The Orange are well on their way to a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, although a loss against Wake would be a major upset and disappointment.
Miami’s next game will also take place on Jan. 29, as it travels to College Park to square off against Maryland. The ‘Canes will be looking to get back on track with a win over the 11-8 Terrapins.
While the UM isn’t out of NCAA contention yet, it has to pick up an 11th overall and third conference win in the ACC to boost its slim chances of making the 68-team field for March Madness.