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IN THE CLUTCH: Ennis guides No. 2 Syracuse to win over No. 22 Pittsburgh

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ At this point, Tyler Ennis’ actions can’t surprise anybody. None of his teammates look at him as a freshman — they really haven’t all year. Trevor Cooney expects Syracuse to go to his backcourt mate for big plays. Jim Boeheim said the guard is as good at getting to the rim as anyone he’s seen.There was never a doubt that Syracuse’s head coach could look to his freshman point guard for a critical play during a close game. Pittsburgh stops players from getting to the rim as well as anyone, but it couldn’t stop Ennis.“He made some of the best plays I’ve seen in a long time,” Boeheim said.Ennis darted through an off-balanced defense for a go-ahead scoop shot with less than two minutes remaining. Just over a minute later, he went with his left hand to end the No. 22 Panthers’ (16-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) upset bid and seal a 59-54 win for No. 2 Syracuse (18-0, 5-0) on Saturday in the Carrier Dome.“They don’t let you get all the way to the rim,” Ennis said. “I got there once. I wasn’t really expecting to get it a second time.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe guard, who led the Orange with 16 points, scored six of the SU’s final eight and kept Syracuse atop the ACC in front of a raucous 30,046 — the second largest crowd this year.It was just the second time this season that Ennis led the Orange in scoring, but he’s been one of SU’s most reliable offensive weapons. Syracuse has other options but the freshman is the catalyst.“From the moment I started to work with him,” assistant coach Gerry McNamara said, “I kind of got the feeling that he was a little bit different.”McNamara is surprised at how often Ennis gets overlooked.C.J. Fair, not Ennis, was the Orange’s unquestioned star in the preseason. When Ennis played with Andrew Wiggins with CIA Bounce in the Amateur Athletic Union, it was Wiggins, not Ennis, who typically stole the show.“I’ve watched him for three years now and every time I’ve watched him,” McNamara said, “he’s made every player on the court a better basketball player.”In the final moments on Saturday, it played to his benefit. Ennis is no longer a relative unknown — he’s a legitimate ACC Player of the Year and National Freshman of the Year candidate — but he also has a plethora of options to distribute to.Cooney went just 2-for-8 but he’s too dangerous when open to be left alone. Fair scored fewer points than Ennis, but is SU’s leading scorer for the season. Ennis doesn’t have the offensive reputation of the two, so the Panthers often left him one-on-one.He just had to get his man off balance and the help from the wings wouldn’t be quick enough to close in on him at the rim.“You kind of just spread it out and let him go to work,” Cooney said. “If they’re going to try and take him away, he’ll make the right play and find the open guy, but you’ve got to cover everyone else and he made spectacular plays.”For the opening 20 minutes on Saturday, though, Ennis was a non-factor offensively. He had just one assist and his two points came from a pair of free throws.But he’s started slow before — particularly of late — and still managed to put together standout performances. He followed up a two-point first half against Boston College with a 10-point second and recovered from a handful of early turnovers to score 10 against North Carolina.“You’ve never seen any intimidation when you look at him,” Fair said. “He always plays the same game no matter what the score is.”Less than three minutes into the second half, Ennis was able to get himself going. He found his way to the heart of the defense, but got stuck in no-man’s land and twirled around. Somehow, the defense sagged off him and he pulled up for a mid-range jump shot.Moments later, the talented two-way freshman grabbed a steal and found Cooney in transition for one of his two 3-pointers. Syracuse’s lead swelled to seven. The Orange led by as many as 10, but a barrage of 3s from Pittsburgh wing Lamar Patterson made it a struggle until the end.There aren’t many freshmen that Boeheim could turn to at the end of the game when in need of a steadying presence and critical bucket. He said Carmelo Anthony and McNamara were two. Ennis is another.Said Boeheim: “He won the game down the stretch for us.” Comments Published on January 18, 2014 at 6:25 pm Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2last_img read more