The Syracuse Orange improved to 3-0 in conference play with a win on the road over the Providence Friars 72-66 Wednesday night inside the Dunkin’ Doughnuts Center. The win improved Syracuse to 15-1 overall, and also maintained their first place spot in the Big East Conference. Syracuse really dominated the stat sheet in this game aside from shooting percentage, recording eight steals, seven blocks, and 41 rebounds in the contest.
CJ Fair led the Orange with 23 points and 11 rebounds on the night, while Michael Carter-Williams added 17 points, six assists, and five steals. Syracuse played sluggish in the first half, going down nine before cutting the deficit to three by halftime. After another slow start in the second half, Syracuse fought their way to a five point lead with about five minutes to go, and maintained control from there until the final horn.
For the Friars, Bryce Cotton was the bright spot throughout the evening, scoring a game high 24 points on 5 of 8 shooting from three. Cotton made his first five from behind the arch, and was the lone reason the Friars had the lead at halftime over Syracuse. Jim Boeheim made his adjustments in the second half, and Cotton remained relatively quiet, missing his opportunities from three and really only converting on a few layups in the second half. Sidiki Johnson also had a good game for Providence, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds on the evening.
The real story in this game was Rakeem Christmas. Rak had a career high in points with 15 to go with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 38 minutes of play. This was extremely encouraging to see from the sophomore, who has struggled offensively at times this season. Christmas really did a great job of asserting himself in the game, and making himself a factor for the Friars to be concerned about. Christmas had a number of crucial tip ins down the stretch for the Orange, and went a perfect 3 for 3 from the free throw line. This is the kind of performance this team will need from Christmas going forward, with the play from the Syracuse big men being rather stagnant to this point in the season. Rakeem seemed to really have that swagger and confidence needed to perform well in the Big East, and hopefully this performance was something to build on heading in to Saturday’s match up with Villanova.
This was another grind it out victory for this team who continued their reputation of sluggish starts, but it was a final score that was a lot closer than what a lot of Syracuse fans wanted. I think the slow starts are a combination of simply being this team’s characteristic as well as the fact that they have a target on their back from every team they play because they are the defending Big East Champions. Regardless of the reason, this team has been able to over come it, and is sitting pretty at 15-1 on the season. This Saturday should be a good indicator of where this team is at, playing a streaking Villanova Wildcat team. The ‘Cats have won six straight, and are currently winning in the second half against South Florida. While Villanova has been inconsistent to this point this season, their winning streak will absolutely give them confidence that they can win this Saturday in the Carrier Dome.