Christmas dominates FSU’s 7-footers in 14-point, 11-rebound performance

September 17, 2020

first_img Published on January 12, 2015 at 12:20 am Contact Jacob: [email protected] | @Jacob_Klinger_ The floor was all that slowed Rakeem Christmas on Sunday night, and that was only briefly.With 9:39 left in Syracuse’s (12-4, 3-0 Atlantic Coast) 70-57 win over Florida State (9-7, 1-2) his foot slipped out from underneath him. “Oh sh*t,” he shouted as FSU’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes stripped the ball from him and the SU forward fell on his back.“I tried to drive and I lost my foot under me and I fell on my butt, so my butt was hurt and I had to stop,” Christmas said.Rising to his feet slowly, he grabbed the right side of his lower back. But before Christmas could shuffle back down the court, SU had stolen the ball back and Kaleb Joseph was feeding him for a soft two-handed dunk that gave the Orange a 13-point lead.It was the gentlest motion from Christmas in an all-action performance that Jim Boeheim called the forward’s best defensive game. And while playing scoring sidekick to Trevor Cooney, the senior showed off his range in the post and delivered his fifth double-double of the season — 14 points and 11 rebounds — in the kind of performance his teammates have come to expect as SU dives further into conference play.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Rak was — was Rak,” Cooney said. “He’s going to score for us, he’s going to grab the rebounds, he’s our MVP, really.”Despite playing against three different FSU 7-footers, Christmas controlled the paint for the Orange. He forced the Seminoles to throw up harder, inevitably inaccurate shots that left the visitors scrambling back on defense as another Orange rebound keyed another Orange fast break.Sunday’s win was the first complete game in which Syracuse looked comfortable in its offense since starting conference play.“This was our best offensive game since the first half of the Virginia Tech game,” Boeheim said.As the game wore on, even after Chris McCullough left the game with an injury, it became clear that none of FSU’s big men would contain Christmas.No Seminole guards were going to drive through him or consistently hit jumpers over him, or any other SU player for that matter. Christmas would miss some loose-ball putbacks on the offensive boards, but in short, he stood at the center of a game Syracuse was going to win.“You know lots of teams have 7-footers, you just can’t look at it like that,” Christmas said. “I go out there and play my defense and try to keep them out of the lane, make them take tough shots and go on offense.”It looked as simple as Christmas made it sound.With 18:22 left in the game, Christmas took a pass from Joseph outside the left block, sprung into the paint and rocketed down a left-handed dunk. He bumped into FSU guard Phil Cofer on the right baseline before jogging back on defense with a 39-24 lead.“It always feels good to throw one down, man,” Christmas said.On the next possession he sunk a 15-foot jumper from inside the left wing, prompting a Florida State timeout.But not much changed. Christmas continued to snare rebounds, Syracuse kept scoring off them and the Seminoles never found meaningful success at the heart of the SU zone.Said Cooney: “I mean he had a hell of a matchup down low with those big guys, so I think he did a hell of a job.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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