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C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis help No. 2 Syracuse overcome Trevor Cooney’s off-night

Jan 4, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT

Syracuse Miami Getty Images

No. 2 Syracuse kicked off their tenure in the ACC on Saturday afternoon, taking on Miami (FL) in the Carrier Dome.

It was anything but pretty.

Miami did everything they could to make the game as slow and as ugly as possible. They never sent more than two guys to the offensive glass in an effort to minimize Syracuse’s transition game. They drained the shot clock on every possession and packed in their defense, daring the Orange to beat them from the perimeter.

And it worked for a while. Trevor Cooney, who is more-or-less the only shooter on the Syracuse roster, went 2-for-12 from beyond the arc and the Orange, as a team, shot just 36.2% from the floor. The Orange dug themselves a six-point hole early in the second half, a lead that felt much bigger than it actually was due to the slow tempo of the game.

Down the stretch, however, it was C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis making the big buckets for the Orange. Fair finished with 15 points and Ennis chipped in with 10 points, seven assists and three steals in a 49-44 win.

It would be easy for Syracuse fans to overreact to their struggles offensively, but I would urge them to keep their concerns in check. Jim Larrañaga is a good basketball coach. There’s a reason that he made a Final Four with George Mason and won dual-ACC titles last season. He knows how to game-plan, and he had a great one against the Orange. Throw in the fact that one of the most important players on the roster — Cooney — shot like he was shaving points, and I’m not sure that this outcome is really all that disappointing.

The bottom line is that the Orange are not going to be a team that scores a ton of points. They are never really going to have more than three guys on the floor at one time that are weapons to score in half court sets. This is a team that’s going to win with their defense, their transition game and by attacking the offensive glass. Fair and Ennis are going to be the guys that key the offense, and they didn’t do a bad job of it against Miami. If Cooney doesn’t shoot 2-for-12 from the floor, this post has a very different tone.

If there is anything that we know about college basketball, it’s that you should never question a win in league play.

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