Cincinnati v Syracuse

Carter-Williams, Triche lead Syracuse to win over Cincy down the stretch

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CJ Fair tipped in a miss from Jerami Grant with 20 seconds left, and Cashmere Wright, who finished the night 2-13 from the floor and 1-8 from three, missed a deep three at the other end as No. 3 Syracuse erased a seven-point second half deficit as they knocked off No. 21 Cincinnati, 57-55. It extended the Syracuse winning streak in the Carrier Dome to 35 games, the best in the nation, and moved the Orange to 28-1 in their last 29 Big East regular season games.

And while Fair may end up being the hero, it was once again Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams that carried the load for the Orange.

After a sloppy first half where both teams looked worn-down from hard-fought, exhausting league games on Saturday and the subsequent travel to get to Syracuse — Cincinnati beat Marquette at home while the Orange won at Louisville — for a Monday afternoon tip, the second half is when things started to pick up. Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuan Parker started to find their range on the perimeter, in large part because the Bearcats were finally able to find a way to penetrate the Syracuse zone. The easiest way to beat a zone is to get the ball into the paint, attack the basket and kick the ball out to open shooters.

Cincinnati worked this to perfection for about a 12 minute stretch, taking control of the game and answering seemingly every Syracuse surge with a big bucket of their own.

Then Brandon Triche took over. After making a sweeping, acrobatic, left-handed layup in transition, Triche broke down the top of Cincinnati’s 2-3 zone, hitting a mid-range pull-up to cut the Cincinnati lead to 51-46. He did the same on the ensuing possession. After Parker pushed the lead back to six, Triche drove and found Jerami Grant for a dunk. Carter-Williams hit a 12-foot pull-up of his own on the next possession, and after Cheikh Mbodj hit 1-2 from the foul line, Carter-Williams hit a tough, step-back three to tie the game with just over a minute left, setting up Fair’s game-winner.

All told, Triche and Carter-Williams were responsible for all of the points in an 11-4 run over four minutes that tied the game and gave control back to the Orange, in impressive feat considering that the Bearcats looked like they were ready to steal a win in the Carrier Dome.

Carter-Williams finished with 16 points and seven assists, with 14 of those points coming in the second half, with the majority of those points coming on jump shots, something that has clearly not been his forte this season. That sparked this terrific quote from Jim Boeheim (via @PSBasketball):

“I can’t cook. If I believed in my cooking like he believes in his shooting, I’d win Iron Chef,” he said. “If we can’t score any other way, yeah, I’m OK with that.”

The Syracuse offense has really struggled at times without James Southerland in the mix. But the good news is that, while they probably should have lost both of the last two games, the play of their back court has bailed the Orange out down the stretch in back-to-back games. That’s a terrific sign for this group going forward.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.