Ziniu Chen | Staff PhotographerMen's Basketball
Carter-Williams thrives as facilitator in win over Providence
Ed Cooley stood outside of the visitor’s locker room and summed up Syracuse’s season in 17 words.
“If he’s making assists for other guys, they’re really good,” Cooley said of Michael Carter-Williams. “When he’s not, they don’t play well.”
And it has been as simple as that for No. 8 Syracuse this season, with the offense looking most smooth when Carter-Williams passes more and shoots less. He was nearly flawless Wednesday, dishing out 12 assists while taking only eight shots and guiding the Orange to an easy 84-59 win over Providence.
In doing so, he proved Cooley’s point and reinforced the notion this team will go as he goes come March.
“He played very well,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He played a really good basketball game.”
Carter-Williams’ 12 assists were the most he’s tallied since SU’s last easy win — a 78-53 beatdown of Rutgers in early January — and that is no coincidence. The Orange was able to get out and run in transition during both of those games, providing Carter-Williams the setting in which his passing skills shine through best.
The Friars shot only 34.8 percent from the field Wednesday, handing Syracuse plenty of misses on which to ignite the fast break. SU scored 20 points in transition, none prettier than the lob from Carter-Williams to C.J. Fair ahead of the field in the second half.
“We got some transition baskets, which we haven’t been getting,” Boeheim said. “And a lot of his assists came in transition. Guys made shots when he got them the ball.”
The assists continue to open up scoring chances for Carter-Williams – he finished with a quiet 15 points on Wednesday. As the Friars began to fear his passes and kick-outs — Syracuse shot 50 percent from 3-point range — it created lanes for penetration.
He drove baseline for a right-handed floater that gave Syracuse a 14-12 lead, and later curled around Providence’s Kris Dunn for an easy finger roll with no one contesting.
By game’s end, Carter-Williams had notched his ninth double-double of the season, and had done it without forcing anything. He missed just three shots and committed just two turnovers.
It was, essentially, a perfect game. And the 25-point win backs that up.
“He played really well,” Cooley said. “He played one of his better games that he played in a long time.”
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