The No. 4-ranked Syracuse Orange brought an end to their two-game losing streak on Monday in College Park, knocking off the Maryland Terrapins, 57-55, in a game they led practically from start to finish.
Led by freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and senior forward C.J. Fair, the Orange played hard-nosed defense and took care of the ball en route to a much-needed conference victory. However, the hard-fought road win wasn't without its nervous moments as Maryland had a chance to win it with a three at the buzzer.
Fortunately for Jim Boeheim's squad, defense prevailed.
|No. 4 Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC)||32||25||57|
|Maryland (15-13, 7-8 ACC)||24||31||55|
Despite an electric atmosphere inside the Comcast Center, Syracuse started fast on Monday night, taking advantage of Fair's hot hand and a series of Maryland turnovers to jump out to an early lead.
Led by Fair, Ennis and Trevor Cooney, the Orange kept their foot on the gas pedal, answering the bell every time Maryland seemed to be gaining momentum. Syracuse would maintain a cushion throughout the first half.
Both teams would play hard from the outset, diving for loose balls and getting hands in passing lanes, but the sloppy play from the home team stood out the most.
With Syracuse leading 32-34 at the half, Maryland's double-digit turnovers loomed large.
Although Boeheim was critical of the ACC's scheduling ahead of Monday night's matchup, his team certainly didn't look as if it was playing its third game in six nights to start the second half, per CSNBaltimore.com's Daniel Martin:
We know how tough these next few games are. Maryland’s off today, which is quite strange. I guess they do those things down here. I don’t know. We didn’t used to do that in the other league.
Shouldn’t mention that, probably. Should I mention that? We wouldn’t do that. We wouldn’t do that. I won’t mention that.
Syracuse would take a 12-point lead with 10 minutes to play, but with the Maryland student section behind them, the Terps would rally, eventually cutting the deficit to one with under a minute to play.
With the Orange's offense fading down the stretch, they would call on their defense to seal the deal. Maryland guard Nick Faust drove the baseline looking to take the lead late, but was met by multiple Syracuse defenders at the rim.
On the final play of the game, the Terps' Seth Allen, who shot 6-of-11 from the floor, was forced to settle for a running three-pointer at the buzzer.
For Syracuse, the win ends a brutal losing skid that cost them the No. 1 ranking. On the other hand, the loss delivers a crushing blow to Maryland's NCAA tournament hopes as the Terps were eyeing a signature win in the ACC.
Key Player Grades
Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse: A+
The freshman floor general was sensational yet again on Monday, scoring 20 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and dictating the tempo from the opening tip.
His buzzer-beating three at the end of the first half allowed the Orange to head into the locker room with momentum and his poise down the stretch proved critical for the Orange in a hostile environment.
Seth Allen, G, Maryland: A
Allen single-handedly kept the Terps in the game on Monday, knocking down shots and driving to the basket on his way to a 22-point night. Unfortunately, he turned the ball over five times and didn't get much help from his teammates, who combined to shoot 8-of-29 from the field and miss seven free throws.
C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse: A
Fair was strong throughout Monday's game, providing the Orange with scoring early and battling on the glass throughout the night. His three-pointer with three minutes to play nearly doubled Syracuse's lead and turned out to be huge in the end.
Leading by example, the senior wasn't going to be denied, and neither were the Orange. Fair finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.
After having nearly a week off to prepare for Syracuse, Maryland will have five days off before visiting Clemson on Sunday. With the Terps having dropped three of their last four, they'll be desperate for a victory.
Unfortunately, Clemson is one of the ACC's top teams and a tough squad on their home floor. It's safe to say Maryland will head south as an underdog.
Meanwhile, the Orange will have four days off after playing three games in six days. Syracuse will play at No. 12 Virginia on Saturday in a marquee conference clash. The winner will be in the driver's seat to win the ACC regular-season crown.
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