Syracuse, NY (WBNG Binghamton) In Syracuse's (13-0) final tune-up before conference play begins, the No. 2/2 Orange defeated Eastern Michigan (7-5) 70-48 on Tuesday, Dec. 31 in the Carrier Dome.
It was the 51st consecutive non-conference victory in the Dome by SU in the team's last regular season out-of-league game of the year. Syracuse has now finished the non-conference portion of its schedule undefeated for the fourth time in the last four seasons.
For the seventh time this campaign and sixth in the last eight outings, the Orange shot above 50-percent, finishing at 51-percent (26-51). The 48 points and 31.5-percent (17-54) shooting effort by the Eagles were both season lows by a Syracuse opponent.
Four Orange men reached double figures with junior Rakeem Christmas and sophomore Jerami Grant leading the way with 15 points apiece. That total matched a career-high for Christmas, who also had two blocks, while Grant corralled a game-best eight rebounds.
Senior C.J. Fair chipped in with 13 points, eight boards and tied a career-high four assists. Despite not getting into the scoring column, freshman Tyler Ennis was all over the court with a career-best nine assists to go along with five rebounds and three steals.
The Orange pounded the ball down low, more than doubling the Eagles in points in the paint at 40-18. Syracuse also took advantage of 18 Eastern Michigan turnovers, finishing with a 23-11 advantage in points off turnovers.
Syracuse raced out to an 18-6 advantage 6:30 into the contest with Grant scoring nine of the team's first 11 points. The Orange took its largest lead of the half at 30-10 with 7:33 remaining following 10 unanswered points, including a pair of monstrous dunks by Christmas.
Over the next three minutes, the Eagles responded with an 11-2 run on the heels of Glenn Bryant's second three-point play in a matter of just over a minute to pull within 32-21. Bryant added a layup and Mike Talley hit two free throws in the final minute as SU took a 36-27 lead into halftime.
Eastern Michigan closed to within 37-32 two minutes into the second half when Syracuse countered with a seven point spurt to set the score at 44-32 capped by a three-ball from Cooney. After five straight from the Eagles, SU used a 14-2 run to extend the margin to 58-39 with under eight minutes to go and put the game away.
An 8-0 stretch which ended on a three by freshman B.J. Johnson had SU with its largest advantage of the contest at 68-45 with less than three minutes left.
Bryant tallied game-highs of 19 points and eight rebounds to lead the Eagles. Raven Lee also reached double-figures with 12 points.
Syracuse plays its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference game when the Orange hosts Miami on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m.
(Courtesy: Syracuse University Athletics)