MBB : Fair looks to break out of offensive slump for Syracuse against Kansas State

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ PITTSBURGH – The missed shots for C.J. Fair were bizarre. All season long the sophomore forward had knocked them down with ease, establishing himself as Syracuse’s most consistent player.But on Thursday against UNC Asheville, the cold streak continued. For the fifth consecutive game, Fair failed to score in double figures.‘I think it’s just a little slump,’ SU forward Kris Joseph said. ‘It’s bad timing, of course. It’s the NCAA Tournament. I think he’ll get over it. I spoke to him yesterday.’With positive reinforcement from teammates and head coach Jim Boeheim, Fair will attempt to end his scoring woes on Saturday when the top-seeded Orange takes on No. 8 Kansas State in Pittsburgh. His ability to produce a near double-double every night is something Syracuse relied on often during the regular season. And whether or not he can return to form could weigh heavily on SU’s chances of advancing in the NCAA Tournament.Perhaps most puzzling about Fair’s scoring woes on Thursday was the fact that his field-goal attempts were the same as ones he’s cashed in on all season. An improved mid-range jump shot afforded him the ability to knock down 12-to-14 footers with ease. He’s even stepped out beyond the 3-point line on occasion this season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textYet for some reason, those shots wouldn’t fall against UNC Asheville. He opened the game with two baseline jumpers, both of which were open looks.Clang, clang.Then he drove to the basket in hopes of drawing contact or getting all the way to the rim for a layup.But that spun off.Finally, he went outside to try his luck from long range.No dice.‘I missed the shots I normally hit,’ Fair said. ‘I know tomorrow I’m going to take the same shots if they let me. I’m just continuing to play basketball and not overthink.’Fair went on to say that sometimes the first basket is the toughest when a player has been struggling, and perhaps that explains some of his troubles on Thursday. He finished the game 1-of-7 from the floor with three points in 15 minutes of playing time.Over his last five games, Fair has shot just 7-of-24 from the field. He’s missed all three of his 3-point attempts. He’s been to the free-throw line three times.The Bulldogs played a physical zone defense against the Orange in the second round, and Fair said it was difficult to get truly open looks. The Wildcats, however, play man-to-man defense, meaning Fair should be able to attack the basket easier.Boeheim, like Fair’s teammates, isn’t worried. His confidence in the team’s ‘glue man’ hasn’t wavered.‘You know, he hasn’t made shots,’ Boeheim said. ‘I think that’s something that can change at any minute, and I hope that starts tomorrow. But he’s getting good shots, he’s aggressive. He’s in all the right places. Shots he had yesterday were all really, really good shots.’His one basket on Thursday was a left-handed layup that resulted in an old-fashioned three-point play. It’s his ability to finish strong around the rim that Syracuse will need on Saturday against a Kansas State team with height on the interior.Jordan Henriquez, Jamar Samuels and Thomas Gipson are all 6 feet, 7 inches or taller, with Henriquez measuring in at 6-feet-11.With the loss of Fab Melo, junior forward James Southerland has seen more minutes for the Orange. But his best offensive trait is his shooting ability, often out of pick-and-pop situations. And with Fair struggling on Thursday, Southerland was one player who picked up the slack with 15 points and eight rebounds.‘It was just one of those games (for Fair), but we have enough talented guys to pick each other up,’ Southerland said. ‘And that’s what we did.’With Southerland mostly on the perimeter, Fair is responsible for being inside and around the rim with fellow big men Baye Keita and Rakeem Christmas. The latter two players, though, have limited offensive arsenals, meaning the pressure is on Fair to produce.From Feb. 4 through Feb. 22, a six game stretch, Fair reached double figures five times. He was often the most reliable option for the Orange offensively.But in the last five games without his usual scoring output, Syracuse hasn’t been the same. The Orange beat Connecticut by two points, lost to Cincinnati and barely knocked off the Bulldogs during that stretch. None of their four wins came by more than nine points.It’s clear SU needs Fair’s offense moving forward in the tournament.Said Fair: ‘I just have to fight through it.’mjcohe02@syr.edu  Commentscenter_img Published on March 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: mjcohe02@syr.edu | @Michael_Cohen13last_img

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