MBB : Fair, Waiters provide spark off bench; Melo a force in the paint defensively

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: [email protected] | @mark_cooperjr Commentscenter_img NEW YORK — C.J. Fair might not start for Syracuse, but he plays a starter’s role. For the second straight game, the sophomore forward played all 20 minutes in the second half.And just like against Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Fair, along with fellow bench player Dion Waiters, delivered in key moments down the stretch of a victory.‘Dion scored first down the stretch, C.J., it was all about heart in those last six minutes of the game,’ senior forward Kris Joseph said.Joseph won Most Outstanding Player of the NIT Season Tip-Off, but he was joined by Fair and Waiters on the all-tournament team after SU’s 69-63 win over Stanford in the tournament title game at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Stanford’s Aaron Bright and Virginia Tech’s Erick Green filled out the honorees. But sixty percent of the team recognizing the most outstanding players in the four-team tourney was from SU.Two of those three players came off the bench.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘They brought a lot of energy,’ Stanford guard Chasson Randle said of Waiters and Fair. ‘They got on the boards, made plays for Syracuse that helped them get the victory.’Fair and Waiters scored 10 points each against the Cardinal, with most of their damage — like it was against the Hokies — in the second half.And a big key to Fair’s game was his safekeeping of the ball. Of the six players on the Orange who played double-digit minutes, the sophomore was the only one who did not turn the ball over.The other five had at least two.‘Dion and C.J. Fair and Baye (Keita) and Fab (Melo) are sophomores,’ SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘They’re still young players. They’re key guys for us. Those four guys are really key guys for us.’Melo’s defense, stamina helps SUFab Melo was indispensable in the middle of the 2-3 zone. As Stanford looked to gain an early advantage, the sophomore center’s transformation into a horse at the heart of the SU defense was never more evident.Melo reentered the game for Rakeem Christmas with 4:58 left in the first half. Nearly immediately, he came up with a steal when Bright drove into the paint, and helped get the ball ahead to Scoop Jardine for a layup to put SU up 17-16.He then came up with another steal inside against Randle, and got the ball to Jardine in transition. Jardine’s alley-oop to Brandon Triche forced Stanford to call a timeout.‘Fab has been awesome for us the whole year,’ Jardine said. ‘He’s controlling the paint. He’s bringing energy. He’s blocking shots. He’s changing shots.’Equipped with a new haircut in New York City, Melo displayed a newfound endurance over the course of SU’s two games. After playing a career-high 25 minutes against Virginia Tech Wednesday, he eclipsed it by playing 32 minutes against the Cardinal Friday. And he made sure his presence was felt in each of those minutes, finishing with an all-around scoreline of six points, nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals.‘He’s there now,’ SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘He made the one block that was an unbelievable block on the dunk. That was a major shot block effort there. But he discourages people in there and he’s only going to get better.’With Keita battling foul trouble — four fouls in six minutes — Melo’s energy was even more important.For a player who had trouble getting up and down the court just a season ago, Melo looked prodigious.In the first half, Melo stuffed Stanford forward Josh Huestis on a dunk attempt with the Orange up 13-10. Later, Dwight Powell got the ball in good position to make a play. But Melo stayed straight up and got the block.And when Bright or Randle would try to slip inside, Melo would stop them cold.‘He’s a big guy and when I was penetrating he was right there,’ Bright said. ‘It was really tough to make plays … He had a presence in every pass I made and every shot that I took.’While Melo didn’t score a ton, he had his moments offensively. Even an unconventional one.Early in the second half, Melo took a pass from Joseph out at the top of the arc. While it seemed as if he was out of place, he fired a pass to a cutting Triche underneath the basket for a layup and an assist to bring SU within 40-39.‘He’s going to be a great force for us down low,’ Jardine said. ‘We’re going to have to do a better job of trying to find him ways to score. But he’s doing a great job on the defensive end.’[email protected]last_img read more