Senior C.J. Fair
hit some timely shots and finished with 17 points to help Syracuse beat Maryland. (Nick Wass/AP)
For a team that appeared to be cruising toward to the Final Four, Syracuse looked like it had found another way to lose on Monday night. But the fourth-ranked Orange managed to sneak by Maryland 57-55 in College Park to avoid a three-game losing streak ahead of Saturday's road game against No. 12 Virginia.
After its blistering 25-0 start, Syracuse dropped consecutive games to Boston College and Duke last week, the latter of which featured the "Block Heard 'Round the World" which resulted in an ejection of Orange coach Jim Boeheim and cost a win for his team. For all its early season success, Syracuse struggled late in the losses to both the Eagles and Blue Devils.
Against the Terrapins, the Orange made sure recent history didn't repeat itself.
Syracuse led by as many as 12 points in the second half but failed to hold off a late Maryland run. The Terps cut the Orange lead to one with a Jake Layman free throw with 48 seconds to play. C.J. Fair (17 points) missed a jumper on the other end for Syracuse, giving Maryland a chance to take the lead.
But Baye Keita swatted Nick Faust's attempt on the Terps' next possession before Fair grabbed the board. A couple of fouls later, Trevor Cooney knocked down one of two free throws for a 57-55 lead with four ticks left. Maryland's last-ditch three-point attempt clanked off the rim, allowing the Orange to halt their first losing streak of the season at just the right time.
Syracuse isn't looking as dominant as its early record indicated. This was its fifth straight game decided by six points or fewer, but the Orange at least came out of this one on good terms. Now the program heads to Charlottesville on Saturday with a chance to pull even in the race for the ACC regular season title. Syracuse may not be No. 1 in the polls anymore, but with only three games left in the regular season, the Orange still have a shot to prove that two-game losing streak was nothing but an outlier on its quest for a championship.