Lauren Murphy | Staff PhotographerMen's Basketball
Fair scores career high as Syracuse suffers 1st loss of season
NEW YORK – C.J. Fair tried to singlehandedly lead Syracuse to a win. At both ends of the floor, Fair showed perhaps the most aggressiveness he has all season. When the game was over, though, the thought of what could’ve been is what lingered.
Fair scored a career-high 25 points, grabbed seven rebounds and hit all eight of his free-throw attempts in his 38 minutes on the floor in Syracuse’s 83-79 loss to Temple Saturday. Where the Orange struggled as a team, Fair shined. He tried to bring Syracuse back, but his efforts weren’t enough and the few mistakes he made were what stood out.
He started the game off with a thunderous dunk on the back end of an alley-oop that gave Syracuse a 4-2 lead. From that point on, Fair controlled the Orange’s offense.
“I got going early, so I just had to be aggressive,” Fair said. “Mike (Carter-Williams) and Brandon (Triche) did a good job finding me. In the second half, it was just time to be aggressive but you just hate to come up short.”
Fair’s performance was the only thing that really let Syracuse even have a chance at winning. The Orange shot 12 3-pointers and only hit two of them, missed 15 free throws and perhaps most importantly, Carter-Williams had nowhere to pass.
The Owls limited his passing options by not moving off their assignments to help guard Carter-Williams. So they turned him into a scorer instead of a passer, and he scored only six points from the field.
“They didn’t come off to help. He’s got to finish those,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He missed some good looks, he got some good opportunities.”
With Carter-Williams – and basically the entire Syracuse lineup – struggling, someone had to step up. Fair took the assignment.
With 5:17 left in the first half, Fair made a huge block on Temple forward Jake O’Brien, then drove the lane hard at the other end for a layup, but was fouled by Quenton DeCosey. He hit both free throws to give Syracuse a 29-26 lead.
He then hit two straight jumpers, sandwiching a 3-pointer from Khalif Wyatt, to give Syracuse a four-point lead with 3:54 left in the first half.
“He was very aggressive. He was able to get the ball in the lane. I think he got fouled a lot. I think he’s one of the guys that actually made his free throws,” Triche said. “With him being so aggressive, it definitely helped our team out, just him playing at a high level.”
He hit two more free throws and a jumper from the top of the lane to help Syracuse take a two-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
Fair also kept Temple from making its lead insurmountable for the Orange. He fought through contact and made a layup with 14:05 left that cut Temple’s lead to four.
His biggest points came toward the end of the game.
With three minutes left, he knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner that brought SU within two. Temple guard Scootie Randall then missed a 3 at the other end and Fair grabbed the rebound. He went to take another 3 from the same spot on the floor as his previous make, faked, and began a baseline drive for what would’ve been an open layup.
Instead, he stepped out of bounds. When the game was over, Fair sat back in his locker and said that was the play that stands out in his mind. Not the 3-pointer that sent a charge through the Madison Square Garden crowd.
On a day where he scored 25 points and played almost flawlessly at both ends of the floor, it was that final missed chance that bothered Fair. He had a stellar performance that pretty much went to waste.
“The thing that’s in the back of my mind is the play after when I, same situation, stepped out of bounds,” Fair said. “I think I should’ve shot it. That play hurt us.”
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