MBB : HALFWAY THERE: Second-half surge helps Syracuse rally past Virginia Tech

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments NEW YORK — C.J. Fair gave Syracuse its long-awaited first lead of the game with a two-handed slam. And after an ensuing Virginia Tech turnover, Fair launched what his head coach deemed the ‘big shot of the game.’After taking its first lead of the game 27:48 into regulation, Syracuse had the ball and was looking for a cushion. Brandon Triche found Fair up the floor, open for a 3-pointer on the right wing. And the sophomore forward’s shot fell through the net, opening up a lead Syracuse didn’t relinquish.‘Seeing it go through the net just gave me so much more confidence,’ Fair said. ‘And it got the whole team going, got the gym going and it gave us a lot of momentum.’Dion Waiters soon knocked down another 3, forcing a Virginia Tech timeout with SU suddenly surging ahead. Fair and Waiters combined for 21 second-half points, 14 of them during a 17-3 run that propelled No. 5 Syracuse (5-0) to a 69-58 win over the Hokies (3-1) in front of 8,293 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Kris Joseph carried SU through a sluggish first half offensively and led SU with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but it was the two sophomores off the bench that ignited the Orange in the second semifinal game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse moves on to play Stanford (5-0), which defeated Oklahoma State 82-67 in the first semifinal. SU and Stanford play Friday at 5 p.m. in the championship game.‘We’ve had four easy games, and when you get that first tough game, it’s always going to be difficult,’ SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘And I thought that again we went with the veterans in the second half, guys that have been there, and I thought they did a tremendous job.’Down 29-27 at halftime, Syracuse trotted four of its starters out for the second half, with Fair replacing freshman Rakeem Christmas. Joseph, Fair and Triche played the entire second half, while Triche played all but the final 1:40.The two teams went back and forth to start the half and a Victor Davila dunk gave the Hokies a 42-39 lead with 13:28 to play. But on Syracuse’s next possession, Triche knocked down a 3 from the left corner to tie the game.‘I thought we played 30 really competitive minutes of basketball,’ Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said. ‘I thought we had that one little four or five-minute stretch where we got soft.’Following the Triche 3-pointer, Fair and Waiters took over. After a Hokies miss, Waiters drove to the basket, trying to give SU the lead, but dished to Fair on the left block. The MSG crowd erupted as Fair slammed it home and Greenberg was forced to call a timeout.Virginia Tech turned the ball over on its next possession, and that’s when Fair got an open look for 3.It was a shot that may have taken the air out of the Hokies’ upset bid.‘That shot was probably the shot, the big shot of the game, I thought,’ Boeheim said.Boeheim referred to Fair and Waiters as two of those veterans that led the second-half siege. Two sophomores, who each took their lumps last year as freshman, now with a coach’s confidence on the Madison Square Garden stage.It was Waiters who gave Syracuse as comfortable a lead as it achieved all game. Hokies forward Dorenzo Hudson’s inbounds pass under his own hoop was tipped by Joseph and stolen by the SU senior with 10:54 remaining. The ball was pushed up the floor, and Waiters knocked down an open 3 from the right wing.It was another huge shot.‘I was feeling it and he got me the ball, and I told myself ‘you got to knock this one down,” Waiters said. ‘And that’s what I did.’Down 50-42, Virginia Tech used its second-to-last timeout. But it didn’t stop the Orange, which was now clicking offensively for the first time all game. Following an Erick Green 3, Waiters went on a personal 6-0 spurt, scoring on a jumper, layup and leaner. The third bucket put SU up by double-digits, 56-45, for the first time with 8:15 to go.The Hokies made one push at SU’s lead — getting within five at 58-53 before Boeheim called a timeout.Out of that timeout, it was a layup by Fair, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, that stopped Virginia Tech’s run. When the Hokies tried to respond, Dorian Finney-Smith lost the ball in a Triche-and-Waiters double team. Triche flipped the ball to Waiters ahead of the pack.He slammed it home, putting the pro-Syracuse crowd on its feet, and SU cruised in the final minutes.‘Virginia Tech, they’re a good team,’ Fair said. ‘They did what they had to do, but we adjusted to the start they had and luckily we made our run in the second half. They just made their run in the first half.’[email protected]center_img Published on November 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: [email protected] | @mark_cooperjrlast_img