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In Syracuse’s win over Wisconsin, C.J. Fair shows why he’s vital

Mar 23, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT

Syracuse Orange's Fair shoots over Wisconsin Badgers' Evans during the second half of their men's NCAA East Regional basketball game in Boston

BOSTON – He’s fifth on the team in scoring, but logs the second most minutes on the team.

He’s not a true frontcourt player, yet is second on the team in rebounds (and first on the current roster).

C.J. Fair is not a star. He may never be a star in his time in Syracuse, but there’s a strong argument to make that he’s the most important player on this balanced 2011-2012 Orange team.

Fair led the Orange in their 64-63 win vs. Wisconsin with 15 points on 7-9 shooting seven rebounds. He did everything he could to not get in the way, and instead just let the game come to him.

“We needed C.J. tonight,” said Jim Boeheim after the game. “If we hadn’t had him tonight…”

I’ll kindly step in here and complete the coach’s sentence he did not finish: the Orange likely would not have won.

Never the one being imitated by kids playing in the park, Fair doesn’t get nearly enough acclaim as a Syracuse basketball player, but he’s the type player of every National Championship winning coach is thankful for having on his roster.

“I had a good practice yesterday and I told myself ‘tomorrow is going to be a good day’,” said a mobbed Fair after the game.

As the Orange continue to win despite Fab Melo, it’s a player like Fair in huge, nail-biting game that comes through when you may not expect him to.

After missing two free throws early in the first half, grumblings abounded that this could be another struggle for the soft-spoken player.

While it was noted in the post-game press conference by Scoop Jardine that Fair’s last three games have been poor, the sophomore forward really hadn’t had a solid all-around game for the Orange since their 71-69 win over UConn in Gampel Pavilion – another important and tight ball game.

“I was like ‘aw man, not this again’,” said Fair. “So then I’m thinking that I just needed to get a bucket. Just something to get me going.”

But fittingly, coming out of tonight’s third media timeout, Fair got it together. He composed himself, went made dunk, made jumper, made jumper…

“And from there, I knew it was gonna be my day,” he said.

When Fair is on, he’s a blast to watch. As defenses get caught up in the driving abilities of Dion Waiters, or the interior presence of Fab Melo, there is Fair, always in position, working sideline-to-sideline waiting for a pass to get a baseline jumper, or trailing the break looking to receive the back pass.

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With the Orange now preparing to meet Ohio State in the East Regional final on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how Fair follows up such a great, timely output.

Don’t think that the Ohio State coaching staff will gloss over tonight’s output from the lefty, but don’t think Fair isn’t aware he may be keyed on.

“I’m still looking to be aggressive,” said Fair. “Hopefully it goes my way again.”

  1. pbanach01 - Mar 23, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Ohio state has the obvious advantage on the boards but Syracuse has a deeper and more talented back-court. Should be a great game!

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