Andrew Renneisen | Staff PhotographerMen's Basketball
SMASH MOUTH: Behind dazzling offensive display, Syracuse routs overmatched Monmouth 108-56
No. 4 Syracuse 108, Monmouth 56
Stephen Spinella could only laugh and smile. There was nothing else to do after the taller, more athletic, more bouncy C.J. Fair had caught a lob pass up above Spinella’s head and slammed it through the hoop to the delight of the Carrier Dome crowd.
So as the Orange-clad spectators “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” over the replay on the big screens, Spinella cracked a grin of his own and let loose a bit of a chuckle. He recognized the futility of his effort on that particular play, a 6-foot-4-inch guard attempting to block the 6-foot-8-inch Fair at the rim, and it was a microcosm of his team’s frivolous attempts to keep pace with Syracuse’s superior athleticism as the game wore on.
“I caught it, but I guess the defender made me look even better by contesting it because I think I already had the advantage of making it anyway,” Fair said with a smile. “I like how the play turned out.”
That play finished the same way as countless others on Saturday, as No. 4 Syracuse (8-0) manhandled Monmouth by a score of 108-56 in front of a season-high crowd of 21,760. What was a close game in the opening 10 minutes quickly denigrated into little more than a dunk contest over the final half hour, as Syracuse routed its overmatched opponent. The stats were gaudy (seven players scored in double figures), the assists pretty (30 in total) and the dunks prettier as the Orange gave its best “Showtime” impression en route to its easiest win of the season.
The heights of the starting lineups foreshadowed the demolition that was to come, as Monmouth’s (5-5) center, the 6-foot-6-inch Andrew Nicholas, stood the same height as Syracuse’s starting point guard, Michael Carter-Williams. And after an initial flurry of inspired play from the Hawks that produced a 19-19 score midway through the first half, the towering height advantage kicked in.
By the end of the game, Syracuse had scored 58 points in the paint — more than Monmouth’s entire point total.
“We were able to get a lot of guys in the scoring column, which means more guys are going to be happy,” senior guard Brandon Triche said.
In one sequence late in the first half, the ridiculous dichotomy between Syracuse and Monmouth shone through as SU freshman DaJuan Coleman scored six straight points on what were essentially uncontested layups, even though there were defenders between Coleman and the basket.
The 6-foot-9, 288-pound center dwarfed everyone on the court. His first layup in that sequence was scored after an offensive rebound that he put back up and over a defender nine inches shorter. His second basket was muscled in against a defender over whom he had a 93-pound weight advantage. And his final basket was an uncontested layup when no one could block him out on the offensive glass.
“At one point it was fun out there,” Fair said. “They came out there with a lot of intensity in the first half, and then once we got going we killed their intensity. Once that was gone, that’s when the game was really over.”
From that point forward it was a dizzying barrage of dunks with highlight-reel finishes, like James Southerland’s towering two-handed slam right down the middle of the lane. The score became so ridiculous — Syracuse reached 100 points with 6:59 remaining — that Fair said players were looking for their opportunity to “get mine.” Referring of course to a dunk worthy of SportsCenter’s Top 10.
Carter-Williams, who led the assist party with 16, said at halftime he felt it had been too long since he had converted a dunk of his own, and that simply had to change. He conspired with fellow guard Trevor Cooney, and the goal was met on the very first play of the second half.
Cooney stole the ball, passed it ahead to a wide-open Carter-Williams and a two-handed finish followed. Whatever Syracuse wanted, it went out and got it against Monmouth.
“I was like, ‘You know, I haven’t gotten a dunk in a few games. I need to get one,’” Carter-Williams said. “Trevor stole the pass and gave it to me for a dunk.”
Smiles flooded the Syracuse locker room after the game, as each player recounted some of the more impressive plays of the evening. Fair’s dunk led the way, with Rakeem Christmas contributing several contenders for the podium as well.
But Carter-Williams summed it up best, shedding the perfect light on Saturday’s dunkfest.
Said Carter-Williams: “Everybody got a dunk today.”
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