Boeheim’s out-of-character move fires up everybody

calexander@newsobserver.comFebruary 22, 2014 

— Syracuse’s C.J. Fair was ready for the free throw, sure one would be forthcoming.

In his mind, the senior forward had made a quick baseline move, made the shot and been fouled by Duke’s Rodney Hood. By making the foul shot, he would give the Orange the lead with 10.4 seconds left in regulation.

“I thought I was already in motion,” Fair said. “I thought it was block or no call, because I don’t think there was much contact, either. At first I thought (the referee) called a block and an and one.

And then, everything went a little crazy.

Referee Tony Greene had called an offensive foul on Fair, not blocking on Hood. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim charged onto the floor, screaming at Greene, picking up two technical fouls, being ejected from the game.

Or as Boeheim later put it, tongue in cheek, “The old coach went out there and got a little excited.”

The Blue Devils’ Quinn Cook soon was at the foul line, making three free throws, sealing what would be a 66-60 victory over the No. 1 Orange.

“I don’t know what coach said, but coach was hot,” Fair said. “We really wanted this game and emotion got the best of him.”

Boeheim would call it a “tremendous game.” He noted it just as defensive as the first game between the two – the 91-89 overtime win by the Orange – had been offensive. He also would joke a little about his out-of-character protest at the end, saying, “I wanted to see if I still had it in me.”

But after winning the first 25 games of the season, the Orange were upset at home by Boston College earlier in the week. They came to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time in program history looking for an immediate turnaround, for another ACC victory, for a sweep of the Devils in their first ACC season.

For more than 39 minutes, the Orange (25-2, 12-2 ACC) played some give-and-take with the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (22-6, 11-4). Syracuse didn’t get much offense from guard Tyler Ennis or Trevor Cooney, who were a combined 3-of-18 from the field, but the Orange worked the boards, hustled on defense and kept the Blue Devils from making any big runs.

They stayed in it, just as North Carolina did against Duke on Thursday in the Tar Heels’ win over the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill.

“We played hard for 40 minutes and played great defense,” Ennis said.

But so did the Blue Devils. The Orange shot 28.6 percent from the field in the opening half, but managed to offset that with 13 offensive rebounds.

In the game at Syracuse, Fair had a career-high 28 points. He had a hard-earned 12 points on Saturday as Jerami Grant was the Orange’s leading scorer with 17 points.

“Their defensive pressure was there,” Fair said. “They fired up the crowd. When they played at Syracuse there was certainly defensive pressure but they were more at it this time.”

Both Fair and Ennis said they enjoyed coming into Cameron Indoor Stadium after hearing so much about the game-time experience.

The loud, pumped up Duke students filled the stands early. One student’s sign, a not-so-subtle reminder for Syracuse, was “Freshly squeezed Orange Juice, compliments of Boston College.”

“It’s definitely one of the loudest gyms I've been in,” Fair said. “They've got a great fan base and atmosphere.”

But for much of the night, the Orange weathered it all – the Cameron Crazies, the noise, Duke’s defense, poor shooting.

“We’re a good road team,” Boeheim said. “We'’re the only team that was in the Big East the whole time and had a winning record (on the road).

“It was a great game. Both teams went at it as hard as they could the whole time.”

It was close to the end, until a call was made and an old coach got excited.

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