The Orange had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Michael Gbinije missed a layup at the rim to force the game into overtime. But, Syracuse rebounded in the extra time led by two clutch free throws by Rakeem Christmas with eight seconds to play that gave the Orange a two possession lead in which Wake Forest would never recover from.
“At Georgia Tech we missed a number of them[free throws],” Coach Boeheim said. “Here[tonight] when we had to make them, we made them.”
With a two point lead with five seconds to play Trevor Cooney made one of two free throws to put SU up 86-83. Wake Forest inbounded the ball to Codi Miller-McIntyre whose three-point attempt from 3/4 court rattled around the rim and rolled out to give the Orange it’s fourth straight conference win and keep them atop the ACC standings at 4-0.
Syracuse, coming off a win over Florida State, shot 43% from long range including 5-12 from Trevor Cooney. Syracuse had as much as a 10-point lead early, but the Demon Deacons were able to stay in the game off of 26 points by reserve Konstantinos Mitoglou who at one point was 9-9 from the field. He finished 10 of 13.
Syracuse got monster games from it’s three main scorers. Michael Gbinije who had just one point at the half, finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists.
“We challenged him at halftime,” Boeheim said. “He was much more aggressive in the second half and some of it came because he had the ball at the point.”
Rakeem Christmas put in a career-high 35 points for SU while shooting 13-21 from the field to go along with nine rebounds. Trevor Cooney also hit five three’s en route to 21 points on the evening.
“I just tried to go out there and be aggressive and get to the hole,” Rakeem Christmas said. “Coach wanted me to be aggressive going to the rim and that’s what I was doing.”
Playing shorthanded without freshman Chris McCullough who was lost for the season following an ACL tear, the Orange picked up a great win to push it’s season-long winning streak to seven games.
WHAT WE LIKED: Tyler Roberson, who started in place of Chris McCullough had another big game on the boards. The sophomore forward had 10 rebounds on the night including a couple clutch ones in overtime that led to second chance points for the Orange. The clutch free throw shooting is also something to note for SU. If you remember back to the Georgia Tech game the Orange struggled from the charity stripe down the stretch. Tonight Rakeem Christmas hit two of the biggest free throws of the season late in OT to give SU a two possession lead. He was 9-12 from the line on the night.
WHAT WE DIDNT LIKE:Freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph was benched again down the stretch in place of Michael Gbinije who took over duties at the point. Joseph was “running around in circles” and “going sideways” as Boeheim said postgame and wasn’t being nearly as aggressive enough as he was in earlier games, most notably against Villanova. He finished with four points in 23 minutes.
KEY MOMENT: We talked about the clutch free throw shooting for the Orange down the stretch. With 12 seconds to play and SU up just 1 Rakeem Christmas went to the line for two shots. He hit both giving the Orange an 83-80 lead. Wake Forest would never get closer thereafter. Christmas was 6-6 from the line in overtime.
STATS OF THE GAME: Syracuse got 73 points from it’s three main scorers in Rak, Cooney, and Gbinije accounting for 85% of it’s total offense. Konstantinos Mitoglou had a career high 26 points for Wake Forest. The freshman from Greece was 4-7 from beyond the arc.
NOTES: Rakeem Christmas’s 35 points tonight were the most scored by any SU player since Demetrius Nichols had 37 against St. John’s during the 2006-07 season. With the win the Orange are now 21-3 in overtime games played at the Carrier Dome.
UP NEXT: After playing three games in seven days Syracuse will have off until Saturday when they will travel to South Carolina to try and stay unbeaten against the Clemson Tigers at 4p.m. from LittleJohn Coliseum.