Syracuse-Wake Forest observations

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
1:01
AM ET
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- It seems like everyone else in Syracuse has wanted to talk about the Duke game on Saturday, judging by the 34,000-plus tickets already sold. For much of the first half against Wake Forest, it seemed the Orange were preoccupied thinking about that game too.

Syracuse looked very beatable. Like in a "How are they still unbeaten, and how are they ranked No. 2?" kind of way. The Orange shot 25 percent in the first half and allowed the Demon Deacons to hang around.

Their lead stayed within eight points even though they were dominating the boards and bothering Wake's shooters with their length.

Ultimately, though, Syracuse had Tyler Ennis and Wake Forest did not. And for the third time on the road -- along with Boston College and Miami -- the Orange turned an otherwise close game into a decisive win, this time prevailing 67-57.

“You’ve got to find a way to win these games and this team has been able to do that,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.

[+] EnlargeEnnis
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonFreshman point guard Tyler Ennis has taken the leadership reins at Syracuse.
Here are other observations from the Syracuse win:

• This is without a doubt Ennis’ team now. That’s not a knock on how C.J. Fair has played this season, but Ennis gradually asserts his imprint a little bit more every game.

After shooting 0-for-6 in the first half, he went 6-of-8 in the second half, scoring 8 of 10 points during a run that kept the Orange in control of the game. Ennis had 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.

“Tyler Ennis played the game like a freshman in the first half, but in the second half he played like the senior that he is,” Boeheim joked. “When he got going, that was the difference in the game.”

• The first trip to Tobacco Road for Syracuse as an ACC member provided quite a surprise for Boeheim. Syracuse had a sizable crowd clad in orange among the 12,523 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

“[Against Miami,] we had 4,000 but they all live down there. They’re from Syracuse,” Boeheim said. “I don’t know where these people came from. We go places like Philadelphia, Washington, we have people there. But here I was shocked.”

Boeheim at one time seemed to be reluctant in leaving the Big East for the ACC. He clowned around about potential restaurant options in Greensboro, N.C., where the tournament is often held, compared to the Big East in New York. But he even changed his tune there too.

“It was the best Italian dinner I’ve had in a long time,” Boeheim said. “Who would have thought? Winston-Salem.”

• If Syracuse rebounds the way it did against Wake, it will not only beat Duke, but have a chance to run the table in the ACC. The Orange entered the game with a plus-5 rebounding margin, but beat the Deacons 55-35 on the boards. Jerami Grant led the Orange by tying a career-high 12 rebounds.

“Our inability to rebound simply killed any kind of momentum that we were working hard to gain,” Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “We would play pretty good defense, but we never finished the defensive possession.”

Trevor Cooney, who finished without a 3-pointer for just the second time this season, isn’t afraid of the big shot. The redshirt sophomore guard had missed his first seven shot and even passed up on a few open looks in the second half. For a split second, it seemed as though his confidence was shaken.

But Cooney’s jumper from the left corner extended the Orange's lead to nine points with 1:44 left, which was their biggest lead of the game at that time.

C.L. Brown | email

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