Thursday, January 1, 2015

GAME RECAP: Syracuse 61 Cornell 44

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Cornell's defense limited Syracuse to 16 points in the game's first 16 minutes, but the Orange couldn't solve the vaunted zone in a 61-44 loss on Wednesday evening at the Carrier Dome. The Big Red slipped to 6-7, while SU improved to 9-4.

The Big Red shot just 20 percent from the floor in the first half and never recovered, scoring just two points in the game's first 14 minutes. Senior Shonn Miller had 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals and sophomore JoJo Fallas tied a career high with 11 points and chipped in four rebounds, three steals and two assists in the loss. Cornell shot 47 percent from the floor after halftime and prevented Syracuse from running away with the game, but it was too little, too late to pull the upset.

Senior Deion Giddens hd six points and three rebounds in seven energetic minutes, while classmate Galal Cancer notched three points, six assists and two rebounds. Cornell held a 34-33 edge on the glass, including 12-8 on the offensive end that led to a 12-4 advantage in second chance points.

Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas had 19 points and nine rebounds, while Trevor Cooney noted 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Syracuse shot 48 percent from the floor, including 60 percent after the break.

Neither team was able to get it started on the offensive end and the game went more than three and a half minutes before Christmas got Syracuse on the board, part of a 14-2 run to open the contest. Cornell didn't score until there were more than seven minutes off the clock when Fallas hit a 15-footer. Fallas had the team's first five points, connecting on a 3-pointer to spur a 5-0 run that cut a 12-point Syracuse lead to 14-7 with 4:34 left in the half. A 3-pointer by Robert Hatter a minute later made it a six-point game and gave Cornell some momentum, but Syracuse ended the first 20 minutes with a 7-2 run, including a dagger 3-pointer by Cooney near the end of the shot clock with 11 seconds remaining to send the home team into the break leading 23-12.

After its 1-for-17 start, Cornell would hit 18-of-38 (.478) the rest of the way, but couldn't claw back. The Big Red never let Syracuse put on a patented run, watching the home team methodically extend its lead to 23 points (47-24) before Cornell was able to maintain a little run. Seven straight Big Red points, including a putback by Giddens, a dunk by Miller and a 3-pointer by Fallas got Cornell back within 47-31 with 9:11 left, forcing Syracuse to call a timeout. That would be as close as the visitors would get the rest of the way until freshman Jordan Abdur-Ra'oof hit a 15-foot jumper with 42 seconds left. The final 10 minutes saw a number of highlight plays for the Big Red - a pair of Miller alley-oop dunks, a dunk by Dave LaMore and a putback slam by Giddens.

Bill Courtney turned around and started walking to the locker room before the first-half buzzer even stopped sounding.
The Cornell head coach had just watched guard Galal Cancer sustain a lot of contact on the final play of the half, and his missed shot was just another in a half that featured 20 Big Red misfires on 25 attempts.
“Our defense got to their shooters,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “They’re a good shooting team, we just didn’t let them get comfortable.”
Just one game removed from what Boeheim called one of the season’s worst defensive performances, the Orange (9-4) held Cornell (6-7) to 34.5 percent shooting in a 61-44 New Year’s Eve rout in the Carrier Dome on Wednesday in front of 19,288.
Syracuse finishes the nonconference season allowing its fourth-lowest scoring output of the season and rides a three-game winning streak into conference play.
“You just try and get in transition and that’s when you really focus on your defense,” SU point guard Kaleb Jospeh said. “Hope you get easy baskets going in the fast break. That’s what you do to get things flowing a little bit.”
The Orange zone hounded the Big Red around the perimeter all night. Cornell played deep into its own shot clock, sequences that often ended in long and hotly contested 3-point attempts.
When JoJo Fallas made the first Cornell basket in eight attempts with seven minutes gone by, it made the score just 6-2.
With eight minutes left in the first half and SU up 10-2, Cornell’s Shonn Miller attempted a pass in the corner that Trevor Cooney intercepted before flying down for an uncontested dunk as Miller ran up the court with his head in his arms. Two minutes later, with the score at 12-2, Robert Hatter forced up an awry 3-point attempt as he fell to the ground and the shot clock expired.
But the Orange let Cornell stick around in the game to start. The Orange didn’t score until nearly four minutes into the game when Rakeem Christmas finished his spin move with a right-handed floater in the paint.
“It’s going to happen,” Cooney said. “You’re not going to make every shot you take. You’ve got to continue to battle and when you’re going to shoot like you did the other day, you’ve got to come down and get stops. And that’s what we did.”
But Syracuse’s scoring woes were masked by those of Cornell’s, and were eventually spelled. Cooney nailed a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer off a screen with just seconds left in the first half. And a thunderous Chris McCullough dunk followed by another Cooney 3 started off the second half as SU extended its lead to 28-13.
By the time The Big Red started making shots —it had a 7-0 run over a 97-second span midway through the second half — it was too late. Syracuse still led by 16, and would eventually stretch that lead to 21 as the Orange closed out 2014 in style.
“We finished very well playing the last few games,” Boeheim said. “…We’ve come through this about as well as we could expect at this stage in the year. We’re playing much, much better.”

As cold as it was outside the Carrier Dome Wednesday night, the Cornell men's basketball team was even colder.
The Big Red made just one of its first 16 shots against Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone defense and never recovered in dropping a 61-44 decision before an announced crowd of 19,288 inside the dome.
More than a year after Cornell (6-7) gave the Orange a huge scare before succumbing in last season's opener, a much improved Big Red couldn't find the range for more than seven minutes to start the game. Cornell finished the first half shooting just 5-for-25 from the floor and was 19-for-55 (34.5 percent) for the game.
The Red's only salvation early on was that Syracuse (10-4) was having trouble of its own out of the gate. The score was 6-0 when JoJo Fallas nailed a jump shot with 13:58 left in the half to put the visitors on the board. But Syracuse scored the next eight points to extend its lead to 12.
The Orange came out sizzling in the second half, turning an 11-point advantage into a 20-point bulge less than five minutes in by making its first seven shots from the floor and nine of its first 10. The Orange — which has won 34 straight over Cornell since the Red's last win, in December 1968 — pushed its lead to 23 points midway through the second half and emptied its bench in the waning minutes.
Senior Rakeem Christmas led all scorers with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting for the Orange, while Trevor Cooney added 14 points and hit two of his five attempts from 3-point range.
Cornell was led by senior Shonn Miller, who came in averaging 26 points in his last three games but was held to 12 points and five rebounds. JoJo Fallas scored Cornell's first five points and wound up with 11 points on 50 percent shooting from both the floor (4-for-8) and from beyond the arc (3-for-6).
The game was scoreless — and Syracuse fans were on their feet clapping, as per dome tradition — till Christmas hit a jumper in the paint at the 3:31 mark of the first half. Cornell scored five points in a 41-second span to make the score 14-7 with 4:34 left in the first half, and a Robert Hatter 3 a minute later cut the Red's deficit to six points, but Cornell would get no closer.
One of the loudest cheers of the night came at the very end, when junior reserve guard Christian White — a Rochester native and transfer from Monmouth — buried a long 3-pointer with two seconds to play.
Syracuse shot 48.1 percent from the floor (25-for-52), including 4-for-12 from 3-point range. Cornell outrebounded SU, 34-33, including 12-8 on the offensive glass. SU forced the Red into 18 turnovers, while committing 14 itself.
Last year at the dome, Cornell raced to a 36-22 lead late in the first half and was up six at the intermission before falling, 82-60.
Cornell travels to Buffalo on Saturday, then hosts Howard next Thursday and Division III Alfred State two days later before opening Ivy League play on Jan. 17 at home vs. Columbia.
The Orange begins ACC play at Virginia Tech at noon Saturday in Blacksburg, Va.

Syracuse vs. Cornell

Syracuse, N.Y. — The Syracuse Orange concluded the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 61-44 win over the Cornell Big Red on Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse's defense was the difference as the Orange clamped down on Cornell, holding the Big Red to just 12 first-half points.
The Orange got a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds from senior center Rakeem Christmas. Trevor Cooney added 14 points.
Despite the 14-point final margin, the game was never in doubt.
Syracuse led 23-12 at halftime as Cornell struggled mightily on the offensive end. The Big Red went 5-for-25 from the field in the opening half. Cornell was 2-for-13 from 3-point range.
For a while it looked like Syracuse might hold Cornell to the fewest points ever scored in a game at the Carrier Dome. The all-time scoring low for a game at the Carrier Dome was set when Syracuse beat Colgate 58-35 on Dec. 10, 2005.
Syracuse blanked Cornell for the first seven minutes of the game. JoJo Fallas hit a jumper with 12:53 remaining in the first half to finally get the Big Red on the board.
Fallas' bucket remained Cornell's only points for the next seven minutes. Syracuse still led by just 14-2 when Fallas made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 14-5.
Cornell fell to 6-7 on the season. The Big Red's next game is at Buffalo on Saturday.
Syracuse improved to 9-4 with the win. The Orange, which has won its last three games, will open up ACC play on Saturday at Virginia Tech.
No answers for Christmas
Cornell could not stop Christmas when the Syracuse center got the ball inside. The best the Big Red could do was try to keep the ball from getting to Christmas.
Christmas scored 19 points, and he did so efficiently. Christmas made nine of his 12 field-goal attempts. He hit from just beyond the free-throw line on one jumper and later swished a sweet turnaround shot.
Christmas also grabbed nine rebounds as he just missed out on his third straight double-double and fifth of the season.
Miller struggles for Cornell
Shonn Miller came into Wednesday's game on a hot streak. The Cornell senior wound up with one of his worst games of the season.
Miller, Cornell's leading scorer for the season at 16.8 points per game, had averaged 27 points in Cornell's three most recent games, but he managed just 12 points in the Big Red's loss to Syracuse on Wednesday.
Most of Miller's points came well after the game was decided. Miller didn't get a shot for the game's first 10 minutes and his first made field goal came at the 4:27 mark of the first half.
It wasn't like Miller had a bad shooting day. He was 6-for-10 from the field. Three of his misses were from 3-point range where he was 0-for-3.
But when the game mattered in the first half, Syracuse took Miller out of the mix, marking him at all times in its 2-3 zone defense.
Syracuse walk-on scores first points
Christian White, who transferred to Syracuse from Monmouth University last spring, scored his first career points at Syracuse on Wednesday.
White, a 5-10 guard, drained a long 3-pointer as time ran out in Syracuse's win over Cornell. The 3-pointer provided the final score of 61-44.
White, a native of Rochester, received an NCAA waiver to play this season just a few weeks ago. He had appeared in two games prior to Wednesday's contest. He had taken one 3-pointer and missed it. He is the first of SU's walk-ons to score a point this season.
Phoenix recalls Ennis
Former Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis is back in the NBA.
The Phoenix Suns recalled the rookie guard, along with second-year guard Archie Goodwin and rookie forward T.J. Warren on Wednesday from Bakersfield of the NBA Development League.
The three players had been assigned to the D-League on Christmas Day. They each played three games for the Jam. Ennis averaged 15.7 points and 3.3 assists, Goodwin 15.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, and Warren 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.
They rejoined the Suns for a game Wednesday night at Oklahoma City. Ennis is averaging 3.7 in six games for Phoenix this year.

Syracuse shot well and gave up few solid looks in a workmanlike 61-44 defeat of Cornell. That was more than enough to counteract its shakiest offensive rebounding night of the year.
It won't go down as an especially memorable victory, but the Orange still got to 9-4 as it heads into its 18-game conference schedule.
The full rundown of the four factors from Wednesday's game:
(.5 x 3FG + FGM) / FGA
Syracuse: .519 (4 3FGM, 25 FGM, 52 FGA)
 Cornell: .382 (4 3FGM, 19 FGM, 55 FGA)
Considering how the first half went for the Orange, an effective field-goal percentage of better than 50 percent (and a raw field-goal percentage just below a 50/50 split) isn't too bad.
It also marked the fourth consecutive game Syracuse finished with an effective field-goal percentage of better than 50 percent. The Orange reached that plateau seven times in 13 games in nonconference play.
Syracuse: 21.9 percent (14 turnovers/64 possessions)
Cornell: 27.7 percent (18 turnovers/65 possessions)
Syracuse didn't pay for its giveaways and Cornell most certainly did. The Orange finished with a 22-5 edge in points off turnovers, so this wasn't an issue for Syracuse.
Nonetheless, it was the sixth time in its nonconference schedule that Syracuse committed a turnover on at least 20 percent of its possessions. Regardless of what's causing it, the Orange will need to tighten up in this area when it delves into ACC play.
Offensive rebounds / (Offensive rebounds + Opponent's defensive rebounds)
Syracuse: 26.7 percent (8 offensive rebounds, 22 Cornell defensive rebounds)
Cornell: 32.4 percent (12 offensive rebounds, 25 Syracuse defensive rebounds)
The Big Red did fine work in this area, even if it did have plenty of its own misses to chase down. Cornell held a 12-4 advantage in second-chance points, and preventing Syracuse from getting extra looks helped keep the Big Red's deficit somewhat manageable for a while.
Syracuse's 26.7 offensive rebounding percentage was its worst since snaring 26.3 percent of its misses in a victory at Maryland on Feb. 24.
FT attempted / FG attempted
Syracuse: .212 (11 free throws attempted/52 field goals attempted)
Cornell: .091 (5 free throws attempted/55 field goals attempted)
Not much to see here. Syracuse outscored Cornell 7-2 at the foul line, but that didn't have a major influence on the game's outcome. There were only 22 fouls called in the game, which obviously didn't lend itself to many free throws being attempted.

Rakeem Christmas had 19 points and nine rebounds, Trevor Cooney added 14 points, and Syracuse beat Cornell 61-44 on Wednesday night.
Syracuse (9-4) completed the nonconference portion of the schedule with three straight wins. The Big Red (6-7) haven’t beaten the Orange since 1968.
Christmas also had two blocks and Cooney had four assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Shonn Miller led Cornell with 12 points and JoJo Fallas added 11.
Cornell dug an early hole it couldn’t escape from, hitting just 1 of 15 shots to start the game and falling behind 14-2. The Big Red trailed 23-12 at halftime, the result of 5-of-25 shooting, 2 of 13 from behind the arc.
Miller didn’t attempt his first shot until past the midpoint of the period and Cornell’s top scorers — Miller, Robert Hatter, and Galal Cancer — combined to go 3 for 14 in the first half, with Hatter missing seven 3s.
Cornell rallied just a little bit behind Fallas’ 3 and Miller’s shot from the wing on consecutive possessions to close within 14-7 at 4:27.
Fortunately for the Big Red, Syracuse also struggled in the opening period, shooting 10 of 27 (37 percent). Michael Gbinije, who’s emerged in recent games as a scoring option with a career-high 24 points against Long Beach State on Sunday, finished the half with two points on 1 of 4 shooting despite playing all 20 minutes.
Syracuse started the second half making its first eight shots in a 16-5 spurt keyed by 3-pointers from Cooney and Gbinije to stretch the lead to 35-17 at the first media timeout.
Three baskets by Christmas, who dominated the paint, and a dunk by Cooney off a steal by Ron Patterson gave Syracuse a 43-22 lead with 11:57 to play, and the Orange cruised to the victory.
Although the Big Red have never beaten Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, they have excelled from behind the arc against the Orange for the past decade.
Not on this night, though. The Big Red could only shrug in frustration when shots like a 3-point attempt by Fallas early in the second half dropped deep into the cylinder and then somehow rolled back up and out. Cornell finished the game 4 of 22 from long range, with Hatter 1 of 8 from deep and 1 of 11 overall.
Cornell: The Big Red have already improved dramatically from last season when they finished 2-26. … One of the keys has been the return of the 6-foot-7 Miller, who sat out 2013-14 with a shoulder injury. … Miller, a co-captain, is the leading scorer (16.8 points per game) on a team that entered the game holding opponents to 37.2 percent shooting.
Syracuse: In the previous four games, Cooney was an impressive 14 of 27 (51.8 percent) from beyond the arc. … In the first four games of the season, he was 8 of 24 (33.3 percent), proving it helps to have help. … It’s come from Gbinije, who was 7 of 12 (58.3 percent) on 3s in the previous four games and went 2 for 13 (5.5 percent) from long range in the first four games of the season. … Coach Jim Boeheim, in his 39th season at his alma mater, has never lost to Cornell.
Cornell is at Buffalo on Saturday.
Syracuse opens Atlantic Coast Conference play at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Syracuse closed both the non-conference portion of their schedule and the 2014 calendar year with a choppy 61-44 victory over Cornell Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome. Both teams struggled through an ugly first half before the Orange (9-4) opened the second half with a strong effort on offense to get some breathing room. SU made 10-of-11 shots from the field to open the second half, effectively ending any upset hopes held by the Big Red (6-7).
After their slow start, Syracuse drilled 60 percent of their field goal tries after the break and finished at 48.1 percent shooting in the game. Cornell hit 5-of-8 shots to close the game, pushing their field goal shooting mark to 34.5 percent. The Orange also owned a 22-5 advantage in points off turnovers.
It was not all positive for SU, as they were outrebounded by the Big Red, 34-33. Cornell came into the game one of the worst teams in the nation in defensive rebounding and the Orange mustered only eight offensive boards in the game. Syracuse also turned the ball over 14 times against a low-pressure defense.
The two squads combined to miss the first nine shots of the game and it took nearly four minutes for a score. Rakeem Christmas had the honors and his basket was the first of six consecutive points to open the game for SU. Cornell finally drained a jumper to get on the board, but needed just over seven minutes to score. The Big Red missed seven shots before that score and also had two turnovers for good measure.
Syracuse would tack on the game’s next eight points, highlighted by Trevor Cooney’s open-court steal, which he turned into a dunk. Christmas hit a jump shot to end the run and put the Orange in front, 14-2, with just under six minutes left in the opening half. At that stage of the game, Cornell was shooting 1-for-17 from the field.
The Big Red finally got their offense in a groove and actually ran off an 8-2 streak, cutting the margin to 16-10 with under four minutes on the clock. Christmas scored twice to stop the visitors’ momentum, then after a Cornell bucket, Cooney hit a three late in the half for a 23-12 lead at intermission.
After a Big Red free throw opened the second half scoring, Chris McCullough gave the sedate Carrier Dome fans a jolt, throwing down a vicious contested dunk. Cooney followed that with another three and a pair of free throws, making it seven straight points and putting the Orange in front, 30-13. Shortly after that, SU pushed the margin to 22 points with a 9-2 run.
After a Cornell three snapped the run, Ron Patterson came up with a steal and streaked into the frontcourt. As he neared the basket, he flipped a pass over his shoulder to a trailing Cooney, who rose up for the dunk.
The Orange kept the Big Red at arm’s length after that. The lone scary moment came when Christmas scored and was fouled with under five minutes to play. The senior center motioned to the bench that he needed to come out and did so after making the free throw. Christmas seemed to be fine, but did not return.
Cornell would cut into the margin a little bit before their coach sent in five walk-ons for the game’s final minute. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim followed in kind.
The mass substitution of the Orange resulted in one last high moment for the Carrier Dome crowd, as Christian White buried a three-pointer for the final points of the night with four seconds to go.
Rakeem Christmas had a field day, drilling 9-of-12 shots from the floor en route to a 19-point, nine-rebound stat line. Trevor Cooney was the only other Syracuse player to crack double digits in scoring, finishing with 14. Kaleb Joseph chipped in with eight points in the game.
Two Cornell players posted double figures in scoring. Shonn Miller topped the squad with a dozen points while JoJo Fallas had 11.
The Orange will open ACC play on Saturday when they visit Blacksburg for a matchup with Virginia Tech. The Hokies are off to an 8-5 start on the season under new head coach Buzz Williams, who took the Tech job after six seasons at Marquette.
Virginia Tech had a four-game win streak snapped on Tuesday when they were routed at #17 West Virginia, 82-51. Guards Adam Smith and Justin Bibbs are the top players for the Hokies, each averaging a dozen points per game and have combined for 48 three-pointers on 47.5 percent shooting from deep.
The contest, which is set for a noon Eastern tip-off, will be televised regionally, so please check your local listings.

A quick take on Syracuse’s 61-44 win over Cornell in the final non-conference game, and the final game of 2014:
WHAT HAPPENED: The Orange started by outscoring the Big Red 14-2 through 5:52 of the first half and went into halftime up 23-12. Another 7-0 run early in the second half gave the Orange a 30-13 lead, and Cornell never was able to whittle the lead below 14 points the rest of the night.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse fans were panicking a few weeks ago following a double-digit loss to St. John’s at home. But the Orange has improved its play since then, especially on the offensive end, where SU has rediscovered its shooting stroke. Though SU didn’t exactly fill it up from downtown (3-11), it shot 47 percent from the field and limited themselves to 14 turnovers. Meanwhile, the defense held the Big Red to 34 percent shooting from the field and 4-22 from downtown. The Big Red also turned the ball over 18 times.
HERO: Rakeem Christmas was unstoppable in the paint. He was an efficient 9-12 from the field, and led the Orange in both points (19) and rebounds (9). Trevor Cooney was right behind with 14 points, though he was just 4-12 from the field. The biggest cheers of the night came for walk-on Christian White, who buried a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final points of the game.
ZERO: While Cornell struggled as a team from the field, guard Robert Hatter had the toughest night. He was 1-10 from the field (1-8 from 3-point land), and also led the team with four turnovers. For SU, Chris McCullough was quiet again, with just six points on 3-4 shooting, though he chipped in seven rebounds.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse opens conference play at Virginia Tech on Jan. 3 at noon. The Hokies are part of a seven game stretch against non-ranked ACC teams that will allow SU to ease into the ACC. TV: ACC Regional Sports Network.

Despite an ugly first half in which they shot just 37 percent and scored only 23 points, the Syracuse Orange finished non-conference play by defeating the Cornell Big Red, 61-44, on Wednesday night.
Syracuse's first-half shooting woes were rendered unimportant thanks to Cornell's game-long offensive ineptitude. The Big Red shot only 18 percent, went 4-of-22 from deep, and committed 18 turnovers.
The Orange were led by Rakeem Christmas, who had game-highs of 19 points and nine rebounds. Trevor Cooney added 14 points, while Chris McCullough managed six points and seven rebounds. Shonn Miller had 12 points for the Big Red.
Syracuse improved to 9-4 with the win and to 8-1 at home. The Orange next head to Blacksburg, Va., where they'll meet the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday.
Stay tuned for more recapping to come later this evening, but until then, leave your postgame thoughts here.
So long, non-conference play. And so long, 2014. Happy New Year, Syracuse fans!

Rakeem Christmas' 19 points and nine rebounds – just one board shy of his third-straight double-double – and 14 points from Trevor Cooney powered Syracuse (9-4) past Cornell (6-7) 61-44, at the Carrier Dome Wednesday night.

Dominant Down Low

The Orange owned a major advantage in the frontcourt over the Big Red, outscoring Cornell 34-20 in the paint.

In addition to Christmas' output, freshman forward Chris McCullough totaled six points and seven rebounds, five of which he hauled in during the first-eight minutes for the Orange.

First Half Defensive Battle

Syracuse limited the Big Red to 12 first half points, the fewest any opponent has scored against the Orange this season. The Orange zone  held Cornell to just one made field goal in its first 15 attempts, including an 0-for-8 start from behind the arc. The Big Red did not score until the game was seven minutes old.

However, the Orange needed a three with seven seconds remaining in the half from Cooney to avoid its lowest first-half output of the season, finishing the frame with 23 and taking an 11-point lead into the locker room.

Second Half Surge

The Orange used a 24-12 run over the first eight minutes of the second half to seal its third-straight win. Eight points from Cooney and seven from Michael Gbinije highlighted the stretch.

Cooney finished the night 2-of-5 from long range. He's hit 16 of his last 32 (50-percent) from behind the arc over the last five games.

Kaleb Joseph scored a pair of buckets in the run as well. He finished with eight points and three assists.

Syracuse forced 18 Big Red turnovers, turning it into 22 'Cuse points, while Cornell scored just five points off Orange miscues.

The game was the 120th between the two schools, with Cornell being the second-most frequent opponent in program history. Syracuse's win pushed the all-time record to 89-31 in favor of the Orange.

Next Up: ACC Play

The Orange will open ACC play on Saturday, Jan. 3 at Virginia Tech, the first of a pair of road contests 'Cuse will play to open conference play. Tipoff with the Hokies is scheduled for Noon.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Struggling to hit key shots in the first half, the Syracuse Orange relied on two key facets of the game to pull away from Cornell in the Orange’s 61-44 win on New Year’s Eve in the final non-conference match-up of the season.
Clamping down defensively, the Orange smothered the Big Red for much of the game. With the stifling zone defense wreaking havoc, Syracuse relied on senior center Rakeem Christmas to take over in the second half.
Coming out on fire to start the second half, the Orange pulled away early and never really looked back. Christmas was a perfect 5-of-5 shooting in the second half, including converting two straight turnaround hook shots from the left block while being double- and triple-teamed on back-to-back possessions.
On the night Christmas finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and one steal to lead the Orange. He was one rebound shy of his third consecutive double-double this season.
“They stopped double teaming [Christmas] him, so we just went to him and he scored,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Early they double-teamed him and then they stopped and he had a good match-up down there and he finished. He was very, very good today. He made about four or five in a row, I think, down low.
“He was good - very good today - and they were good looking for him and getting him the ball.”
With Christmas dominating down low, his presence opened up space for junior guard Trevor Cooney and junior forward Michael Gbinije to work. After a slow start that saw Cooney miss a handful of his early shots, he was able to knock down big shots in the second half while applying heavy pressure in the zone that led to easy transition buckets.
Cooney finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in another overall performance that should be a sign of things to come once conference play starts Jan. 3 against Virginia Tech.
As Christmas, Cooney and Gbinije have started to get rolling for the Orange offensively, the defense has gotten much better in the past few games, which showed up against Cornell by limiting the Big Red to just 12 points at the half. Cornell’s top two players in forward Shonn Miller and guard Galal Cancer combined for just 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
“We had to keep up on our defense,” Christmas said. “In the beginning of the second half we started slacking on defense and they started to come back so we turned it up. We have to come out and play hard. Everyone was aggressive tonight. Everyone was playing good and we’re going to have to carry that into the next game.”
The Orange will need to be aggressive defensively against a Buzz Williams-coached Virginia Tech team. With an aggressive defense, it could lead to easy offense, which would give Syracuse the start they’re looking for to open up ACC play.
“We finished the year playing very well the past few games and now we will get ready for conference play Saturday,” Boeheim said. “We have come through this about as well as we could have expected at this stage of the year. We are playing much better and we look forward to getting ready for conference play on Saturday.”   

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