BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jerami Grant spun past Shayne Whittington from right to left in one fluid motion, soaring toward the rim and flushing it home for a loud two.
That was just one of Grant’s four dunks in No. 3-seed Syracuse’s (28-5, 14-4 Atlantic Coast) convincing 77-53 win over No. 14-seed Western Michigan (23-10, 14-4 Mid-American) at First Niagara Center on Thursday afternoon. Grant finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, doing most of his damage in the paint.
Grant schooled the Broncos all game, using his athleticism to his advantage. SU missed Grant when it sputtered at the end of the season, but now he’s back at full strength and seamlessly complementing Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair.
“It’s like he’s jumping on a trampoline out there,” SU guard Michael Gbinije said. “Just trying to put people in the basket.”
Grant’s first dunk came in transition. He leaked out after a steal and slammed it home after catching a pass from Ennis. Later he flushed home another one in transition, this time off a bounce pass from Gbinije.
Whenever the SU defense forced turnovers, Grant burst down the court and was ready to accelerate toward the rim.
“He’s a blessing to our team,” Gbinije said. “He’s so athletic and he finishes everything around the rim.”
That jolt wasn’t there while Grant recovered from a sore back down the stretch of SU’s regular season. Fair was forced to take shots he usually passes up. Defenders draped and locked down Trevor Cooney. Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita often found themselves in foul trouble simply because they had to play a heavy dosage of minutes.
On Thursday, Grant kept the offense balanced and logged 29 minutes while the centers struggled with four fouls each.
“He gives us firepower when he’s in there,” Keita said.
Grant’s final dunk — and perhaps his most explosive — came in the second half with the game well out of reach. He cocked the ball back with his right hand and unleashed a rim-rattling dunk over Whittington once again.
When asked which dunk was his favorite, Grant wasn’t too sure at first, but then he remembered.
“Probably the one where I dunked on…I don’t even know,” he said, smiling and shaking his head.
“The last dunk I had was probably the best one.”
Published on March 20, 2014 at 8:44 pm
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