CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Michael Gbinije said Tyler Ennis picks and chooses when he wants to score. That’s how good he is.
He looks for his teammates first. Then, when Syracuse needs him to score, he does.
“That’s really what makes him special,” Gbinije said.
Just as he did against Pittsburgh a week ago, Ennis chose to score at the end of the game against Miami on Saturday. He guided No. 2 Syracuse (19-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast) to a 64-52 win over the Hurricanes (10-9, 2-5) at the BankUnited Center after squandering a large lead.
Ennis scored 14 points and added five rebounds and four assists. But it was his late-game heroics that made the performance special. When the game heats up, so does Ennis.
“He’s just a really good player,” said SU guard Trevor Cooney. “That’s what really good players do.”
As he stood by his locker after the game, though, Ennis acted like nothing had happened. He was the same personable, humble freshman who members of the media have hounded after nearly every game this season.
C.J. Fair sat on the other side of the locker room and talked to just one reporter. Ennis, meanwhile, had a horde of reporters around him. Cameras in his face, he remained unfazed.
He calmly analyzed what worked, what didn’t and why he was able to thrive late in the game.
“I had some openings off the screen and roll,” he said. “I took advantage of it.”
Twenty minutes earlier, with the game on the line, Ennis was the exact same way: fluid and controlled.
When Miami surged back to make it a game, Ennis led Syracuse’s late push. He jetted coast to coast for a layup and hit a difficult floater, both of which helped the Orange pull away.
Ennis’ composure and late-game dominance were two of the main topics in SU head coach Jim Boeheim’s press conference, as they have been for much of the season.
While he assesses the up-and-down play of Cooney and Rakeem Christmas after nearly every game, his take on Ennis is always trending upward.
“Tyler’s been really good down the stretch,” Boeheim said. “He’s got an easy way about him, the way he makes plays.”
Boeheim said he doesn’t know if he’s ever had a freshman point guard play with as much poise. Sherman Douglas and Michael Carter-Williams starred at SU, but they barely played as freshmen.
Pearl Washington is the only one that comes to mind for Boeheim, but he said Ennis might be even more poised.
Boeheim said Ennis has made great decisions all season long, and Saturday was no exception. He scored seven points in the final 6:09, only missing two shots during that stretch.
“I was a little surprised when he missed one,” Boeheim said.
Ennis has quickly surged into the national spotlight. His performance against Pittsburgh boosted his stock, and Saturday further substantiated his status as one of college basketball’s elite freshmen.
Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle got all the buzz to start the season, but Ennis’ importance to his team has been unparalleled.
Saturday proved that when the game is on the line, Ennis is an unflappable option. Pittsburgh wasn’t a fluke. It was what is rapidly becoming the norm.
“With a guy like him,” Gbinije said, “it’s hard to really know when he’s going to score. It’s hard for the defense to really stop him, and he just uses the talent around him very well.”
Fair has hit his share of big shots this season, but Ennis has been the one to seal games in crunch time.
It’s growing clearer and clearer that Ennis is comfortable scoring the ball.
But only when Syracuse needs him to.
Published on January 25, 2014 at 7:56 pm
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