PROVIDENCE – A solid second half effort helped the #7/7 Orange (15-1, 3-0) to a 72-66 victory on the road against Providence (8-7, 0-3) in the Dunkin' Donuts Center on Wednesday evening.
Junior C.J. Fair led the offense with a double-double, totaling a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Rakeem Christmas tallied a career-high 15 points, while sophomore Michael Carter-Williams added 17 points, six assists and five steals. Senior James Southerland also notched double-digit scoring with 13 points.
The Orange used an early 6-0 run to break away with a six-point advantage at 14-8, but the Friars quickly rebounded with a 6-0 run of their own to take a two-point lead at 18-16 with 10:19 remaining in the opening frame.
Triche evened the score at 21-21 with a jumper, but SU couldn't continue the momentum, as Providence's Bryce Cotton connected on his fifth three-pointer of the half and a layup to give the Friars a five-point lead at 26-21 with 7:24 remaining in the first period.
Pulling away, Providence took their largest lead of the half at 33-24, ahead by nine points before Carter-Williams connected on a three and Fair followed with another bucket to begin to chip away at the Friars' lead.
As time expired, the Orange entered the intermission trailing by three points at 33-30, marking the first time this season that SU has entered halftime without control of the lead.
Ready to erase the deficit in the second half, Christmas slammed a pair of consecutive dunks to knot the score at 39-39 and then converted on two free throws to secure the Orange's first lead of the half at 40-39. SU had trouble finding a rhythm though, as the two teams battled point-for-point before Triche found Fair for a dunk and the Orange emerged with a three-point lead at 51-48.
Syracuse found itself clinging to another three-point advantage at 56-53 before Fair slammed another dunk, extending the Orange advantage to five points at 58-53 with less than five minutes in the game. From there, Christmas and Southerland followed with layups to give Syracuse its largest lead of the half at 62-55 allowing the Orange some space to hold off some last minute pressure from the Friars.
Fair netted a set of free throws before Syracuse secured a 72-66 victory at the buzzer. Fair shot 6-of-6 from the charity stripe in the second half, helping the Orange to a perfect 12-of-12 in free throw shooting in the second half.
Syracuse will return home this weekend to host Villanova in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Jan. 12 at noon. The game will be televised on ESPNU.