What A Way to Make An Entrance

The Orange gave up a double-digit lead over the Louisville Cardinals a game ago. Versus Montana, Syracuse held on and kept climbing. More inside.

Upsets did happen in the round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament.

But, the Syracuse Orange (27-9) were not the victim.

The Orange came out striking versus the Grizzlies of Montana (25-7). Junior forward C.J. Fair scored immediately inside after Syracuse obtained possession on the opening tip. He would score the first six points for the Orange and match the entire output of the Grizzlies with 8:09 remaining in the first half, both having 11 points.

Just a little over five minutes into the match, Syracuse rose to a double-digit lead over Montana thanks to a dunk by sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas off of an assist from fellow sophomore, guard Michael Carter-Williams.

Their lead would never dip below double-figures for the remainder of the game, a span of almost 35 minutes.

At the half, the Orange had elevated their advantage to the next tier, up by more than 20 at 38-15.

Senior guard Brandon Triche accumulated the final eight points for Syracuse going into the intermission. He went into the locker room in double-figures with 12, Fair followed with 11.

The Orange began the second half the same way they did the first with Fair connecting with the net on the team's opening possession.

Montana would not score until the 17:13 mark, when sophomore guard Jordan Gregory made a jump shot to end a six-minute drought that began with 3:14 remaining in the first half.

Speaking of drought, Grizzlies' guard/forward Kareem Jamar and senior guard Will Cherry, the team's leading scorers, combined to attain seven total points in the game. They came into this match with Syracuse averaging over 27 points per game as a tandem.

Overall, Montana made a mere 11 of their 54 attempts from the field (20.4%), while Syracuse took three less attempts and made 16 more shots, going 27-for-51 (52.9%).

The Orange were successful at the free throw line (22-for-31, 71%) and from distance (5-for-11, 45.5%). Add in their play at the rim with eight dunks and it is easy to realize how the court was Syracuse's playground in this match.

Christmas led the team with three slams himself. The sophomore forward finished with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting, plus 1-for-3 from the line, four rebounds (three defensively, one on offense), two blocks, one steal, and no turnovers.

Staying on the inside, Orange freshman center DaJuan Coleman did not play a single moment in the Big East Conference Tournament, a decision made by Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.

With the team rising to a 30-plus, then 40-plus point advantage, Coleman was given the opportunity to get some experience on the court. He responded by going 4-for-9 from the field and 4-for-5 from the charity stripe to attain double-digits, with 12 points to go with five rebounds (three offensive, two defensive), one assist, one steal, and no turnovers.

Coleman was just shy of multiplying his season average of 4.4 points per game by three. His tenacity at the rim allowed Syracuse high-percentage finishes on possessions and opportunities at the line, where the youthful big man was successful. His old-fashioned three-point-play with 1:26 remaining gave the Orange their largest lead of the game, with a 50-point advantage over the Grizzlies.

Fellow Jamesville-DeWitt High School alum Triche would lead Syracuse with 20 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field, including making both of his attempts from beyond the arc, to go with an 8-for-10 performance at the line. Triche also added four assists and four steals to two turnovers in the game.

Fair would end in between Triche and Coleman with 13 points, as the third and final Syracuse member to reach double-figures in the contest, en route to an 81-34 victory over Montana.

With the Orange never letting up in the game, Boeheim went deeper into his bench, playing 13 members of the squad for at least two minutes apiece.

The man who rewrote Big East Conference Tournament history less than a week ago with 19 three-pointers within a single tournament run, senior forward James Southerland, scored nine points in this match-up with the Grizzlies, going 1-for-3 from long range and 3-for-8 overall.

Though they did not score, fellow seniors, forward Matt Lyde-Cajuste and guard Griffin Hoffman, were given the opportunity by Boeheim to get back on the court once again in their final campaign with the Orange.

Syracuse will return to the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, on Saturday, March 23rd, to face the same animal, but different team, as they, the 4-seed of the east bracket, take on the 12th-seeded California Golden Bears at approximately 9:40pm ET.

The Golden Bears advanced to face the Orange as a result of their win over the 5th-seeded UNLV Rebels, 64-61.

Cuse Nation Top Stories