After Trevor Cooney “bailed out” the Syracuse Orange last week, SU looked to come out strong from the opening tip when they hosted Fordham on Tuesday.
Unlike Friday night's Cornell game, SU got off to a fast start and led comfortably throughout. They exploited their huge size advantage at the forward spots and coasted to an 89-74 victory over the Rams.
Here are my grades from Tuesday night’s game:
Head of the Class
Jerami Grant: After sitting out one game for daring to play basketball during the summer, Grant was ready to go Tuesday night, and it showed with a career-high 16 points *and* 10 rebounds in 27 minutes. Grant was flying around the court all night, taking advantage of his length and athleticism against defenders five or six inches shorter. He did most of his damage on the offensive glass, grabbing 7 of his 10 rebounds on that end, and C.J. Fair put it best when he said that Grant always seems to “be in the right place at the right time” to crash the boards and get himself easy putbacks. Grant’s only major downside was his subpar 4-9 effort from the free throw line, something that he said afterward he definitely needs to work on.
DaJuan Coleman: As I mentioned in our preview, I thought this would be a good opportunity for Coleman to assert himself and really do some damage on the interior. He did just that, notching a double-double of his own with 10 points and 10 rebounds in only 19 minutes of play. He really made his mark under the basket, hitting the offensive glass for several putback layups and combining with Grant to punish Fordham’s smaller defenders on the interior. He also broke out a surprisingly nice drive to the rim in the second half, using his left hand to convert a deft layup that was impressive for a man of his size.
C.J. Fair: Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Fair is a pretty good basketball player. It’s almost cliché to include him in every recap, but unspectacular consistency is his trademark. Fair dropped a seemingly effortless 26 points, a career-high in scoring for the senior forward. Most of his scoring came on mid-range jumpers and free throws, where he was a perfect 7-7 from the stripe. Fair has really diversified his game since last season, and his mid-range game has been his calling card early on. He said as much in the locker room after the game, saying he really wanted to exploit his size advantage and get the ball in that 10-15 foot range where he knows he can be successful.
Stay After School
C.J. Fair: Let me explain. While Fair had a nice night, typical for him, it wasn’t without faults. Fair has racked up a surprising 11 turnovers in two games, a lot for an experienced wing who isn’t his team’s primary ballhandler. Many of his turnovers have come on odd plays, like a double dribble, offensive fouls, and random traveling violations, so perhaps he’s just pressing too hard early on and will settle down once his teammates show they can consistently shoulder more of the scoring load.
Trevor Cooney: What happened? After setting the world on fire versus Cornell, the reigning ACC Player of the Week was virtually nonexistent against Fordham. He managed a meager 2 points on 1-6 shooting (0-4 from three), and was glued to the bench for most of the second half with four fouls. His absence paved the way for more minutes for fellow guards B.J. Johnson and Ron Patterson, but if SU wants to beat the best teams in the ACC they’ll need more Cornell Cooney and less Fordham Cooney.
Final Grade: B
This was the first game, including exhibitions, that was marred by the numerous foul calls that were predicted when the NCAA changed its handchecking and block/charge rules this offseason. I know it was just one game, and eventually the players will figure out how to play defense with their feet instead of their hands, but this one was long, slow, and ugly. SU and Fordham combined for 55 fouls and 72 free throw attempts, and it probably would have been worse if the game was close. In a way, this could actually benefit the Orange this season, as their depth and zone defense may allow them to play more aggressively than their opponents.
Jerami Grant speaks to the media following his career-best game Tuesday night: