Syracuse Basketball: Stock Up, Stock Down for Orange Starters
When you play with fire, eventually you're going to get burned.
The Syracuse basketball team could not put the matches away and let Boston College catch fire from three en route to a 62-59 upset Wednesday in overtime.
It was the first loss of the season for the No. 1-ranked Orange (25-1, 12-1 ACC). The Eagles were just 6-19 heading into Wednesday's contest, but they looked like the better team for the whole second half. They made 11 of 22 three-point attempts and dug themselves out of a hole after scoring only 17 points in the first half.
With the possibility of an undefeated season now extinguished, perhaps the Orange can get back to playing loose and not worrying about trying to stay perfect. With a rematch with Duke looming Saturday followed by two more road games, the going only gets tougher.
After the first loss of the season, let's take stock of how the starters have been playing lately. Which players are rising to the occasion? Who is starting to fall off? Read on to find out.
After ripping out Pittsburgh's hearts, Tyler Ennis could do no wrong.
He did have some bad passes on post feeds against Boston College that led to turnovers, but he can't be perfect every night. The fact of the matter is Syracuse could have five or more losses if it weren't for Ennis.
He always seems to know when he needs to shoot and when he needs to pass. That was evident against N.C. State when he found Fair for the winning basket and against Boston College when he scored back-to-back baskets late to keep the Orange's hopes alive.
Ennis still could stand to look for his shot a little more often, as he passed up a few good looks late in the game against Boston College. But for a freshman being asked to run a Top Five team with no real backup, he's been remarkable.
Trevor Cooney again seems to have cooled off after his offensive eruption against Notre Dame.
He's still at 42.1 percent from deep on the season, so perhaps it is just regression toward the mean. But in the last three games, Cooney has gone 3-of-8, 2-of-6 and 1-of-6.
As the only major outside threat on the team, Cooney needs to be more consistent. Sure, teams are doing a good job of chasing Cooney all over the floor and not allowing him to get many good looks. But when he does get an opening, he's got to make it count.
Cooney also has only one steal over the last three games, which is uncharacteristic for the man who was leading the ACC in that category.
Cooney's shooting ability can give the Orange offense the boost it desperately needs. With the toughest part of the schedule about to begin, now is the time for Cooney to get going.
Stock: Down slightly
If you look quickly at the box score from the Boston College game, it would seem Fair was the only bright spot for the Orange.
Fair scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss. But the tape from the game tells a different story.
Fair shot just 7-of-23, and there were multiple occasions where he tried to do everything himself. It seemed like every time he caught the ball, he put his head down and tried to go against three defenders instead of getting his teammates involved.
With his team down by one point with about 30 seconds left in overtime, and coming out of a timeout no less, Fair took an ill-advised shot without allowing his team to get into any sort of offense.
You can't say too many negative things about Fair as he has come up large so many times this year when his team needed him. But the fact of the matter is Fair is struggling as of late. He's shooting just 34 percent (18-of-53) over the last three games.
Syracuse fans are hoping this is just a bump in the road for Fair. But with the end of the regular season just around the corner, there is little time to snap out of it. He will have to if the Orange are going to go deep in the tournament.
Jerami Grant has to be among the leaders in plays that you thought were only possible in a video game.
Whether it be dunks, blocks or powerful spin moves with a finish in traffic, Grant's athleticism allows him to do just about anything he wants.
He just can't seem to do it consistently lately as he's shooting just 41 percent (18-of-44) since the Duke game. He can make just about anything around the rim, but his outside shot is still suspect.
Grant certainly didn't play his best game against Boston College, when he managed only six rebounds despite having a marked athletic advantage over the entire Eagles team. He also only managed nine shots, but that wasn't really his fault.
Grant's defensive versatility also can't be overstated as he's played center recently when Christmas had to sit. If the Orange are going to avoid multiple ACC losses in a row and make a good tournament run, consistency is the name of the game for Grant.
Stock: Up slightly
Syracuse fans affectionately refer to Rakeem Christmas as "Rak."
It is an especially fitting nickname for the big man lately, as Christmas has been the rock for the Orange in the middle.
Syracuse would not have escaped the N.C. State game without Christmas' 14 points, 12 rebounds, seven blocks and the game-saving steal. The Duke game also probably turns out differently if Christmas doesn't reject Rodney Hood at the rim. He's also made 75 percent of his free throws in ACC play.
And did we mention he's been the only available center lately as Baye Moussa Keita nursed a knee injury? Knowing he had to avoid foul trouble, Christmas has played excellent defense in logging 35, 35 and 39 minutes in the last three games.
Syracuse fans were ready to give up on Christmas early in the season. Now, they don't know where they'd be without him.