Christmas emerges, keys Syracuse comeback past Carleton in 76-68 exhibition win

first_img Comments Rakeem Christmas watched Syracuse’s zone get tugged side-to-side and shot over. With the increasingly anxious Carrier Dome crowd and Jim Boeheim, he watched SU’s guards fail to get around screens and watched Carleton shooters bury 3s.Christmas saw the Ravens turn the Orange’s 2-3 zone inside out with passes from the baseline to players cutting to the basket he couldn’t protect. He was on the bench and in foul trouble.But when he returned to the floor after halftime, he never left. The holes in the Syracuse defense closed up and he filled the one in the middle. Christmas pushed the team out of a half-court game it was losing and into one of runouts and dunks that it won 76-68 in front of 7,812 on Sunday afternoon.And when the game did settle he fought for, demanded and fully deserved the ball. Mixing power moves with court vision, Christmas finished with 13 points — all in the second half — 3 rebounds and two assists while fueling a run past Carleton that SU hoped, then knew was coming.“Rak in the second half was just a totally different guy,” junior guard Michael Gbinije said. “We kept giving him the ball and he showed the physical beast that he could be.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith 7:39 left in the game, Christmas lingered with two hands on the rim in front of the Syracuse bench, shouting along with the fans who cheered his two-handed dunk and the 62-58 lead it provided.Boeheim clapped too, as Christmas leapt from the hoop to get back on defense before the whistle blew for a media timeout. “So that kind of brought us down but we were still hype,” Christmas said.Carleton was done deflating the Orange. The Ravens only made one more 3 the rest of the game. Syracuse had gotten all the points it needed from its center.He’d already given SU the dominance in the paint it needed to tighten up its defense. And on offense he either heaved balls across the Carleton defense or barreled through it himself. Christmas drove from the right elbow, finished and drew a foul to close Carleton’s lead to 50-47 with 12:48 to play.“I mean when he’s going and he gets it down low, people have to respect him and cover him and it’s going to open up more for other players,” senior guard Trevor Cooney said. “In the second half he was excellent. That’s what we want out of Rak.”At halftime, Boeheim told his players to get the ball to Christmas in the post, where he was able to score and facilitate the offense.SU tied the game at 52 when Tyler Roberson buried a shot from just inside the right wing. Cooney got the assist on the play for handing the ball off to the sophomore forward, but the Ravens’ defense had been torn open by a pair of 20-foot passes between the Orange’s shooter and its big man. Christmas also found Ron Patterson for two 3s on a pair of skip passes.Cooney shot 0-for-6 in the game. Syracuse’s young guards could crash the boards and box out as best they could, but they couldn’t control the contest. Christmas took more drives to the hoop than Cooney and insisted on having the ball like no other player on the court.Without Christmas, SU was just playing out an exhibition. Christmas and the fast-break play gave the team a sense of comfort, Gbinije said. And with him, the Orange returned to running and winning.“Yeah, he was playing,” said Boeheim when asked what the biggest difference was for Christmas from the first half to the second. “He wasn’t sitting. It’s hard to score — I’ve never seen anybody score from sitting over there.” Published on November 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm Contact Jacob: [email protected] | @Jacob_Klinger_center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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