The No. 7 ranked Syracuse Orange (27-4, 14-4) had lost four of its previous five games (two to sub-.500 opponents) before heading to Tallahassee for its regular season finale against the Florida State Seminoles (18-12, 9-9). Though Syracuse came away with a 74-58 win, the game was not nearly as one-sided as the final score suggests.
The Orange went into halftime with a six-point lead. They came out firing in the second half, led by C.J. Fair who hit his first five shots, but the Seminoles responded with a run of their own. After an Okaro White jumper, the Orange’s lead was down to just one point with 12:38 to go.
Then the Orange woke up. Trevor Cooney knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, Rakeem Christmas and Jerami Grant added highlight-reel dunks, Tyler Ennis coolly hit his free throws and Fair, steady as usual, led all scorers with 22 points — just like Jim Boeheim drew it up.
White carried the Seminoles for most of the game on his senior day, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Ian Miller added 16 points, but it wasn’t enough. After a brief scare, the Orange started playing like the team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for three weeks and pulled away late.
Though they beat a lackluster opponent, this was a huge win for Syracuse nonetheless. Not only will they head into the ACC tournament coming off a win, but the team was firing on all cylinders for the final 12 minutes of the game. It’s a sign that their recent funk could be over — and it couldn’t have come at a better time as March Madness is underway.
The 2010-11 Connecticut Huskies lost four of their final five games of the regular season before winning the Big East tournament. They rode that momentum all the way to the Final Four and their third national championship in school history. Syracuse has endured similar struggles in the regular season. If they want the same finish, they’re going to have to continue playing like they did for the final 12 minutes against Florida State.