Winston-Salem, NC (WBNG Binghamton) With a 67-57 win at Wake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 29, the #2/2 Syracuse Orange matched its best start in program history with its 20th straight victory to begin the season.
The Orange also won 20 games just two years ago to begin the 2011-12 campaign. SU will look to break the record on Saturday, Feb. 1 against #17/16 Duke when ESPN College GameDay Covered by State Farm comes to town. The triumph also extends head coach Jim Boehiem's NCAA Division I record of 20-win seasons to 35.
Freshman Tyler Ennis poured in a game-high 18 points - including 16 after the intermission – to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Senior C.J. Fair added 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals while sophomore Jerami Grant posted his team-best fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and a career high tying 12 boards.
SU's duo at center- senior Baye Moussa Keita and junior Rakeem Christmas - provided a solid contribution on both ends of the court for the second consecutive game. Keita recorded six points, eight boards and matched a career best with five blocks off the bench. Christmas finished with six points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Shooting percentages were fairly even with Syracuse holding a slight edge at 36.2-percent (21-58) to 34.0-percent (18-53). The Orange shot 48.1-percent (13-27) in the second half to help raise that total and pull away. SU also dominated the glass grabbing a season-best 55 boards to out-rebound Demon Deacons by 20.
Christmas opened the scoring with the game's first four points, but the Orange went cold - failing to convert a basket for nearly nine minutes – as Wake Forest scored 10 of the next 12 points to go ahead 12-6 midway through the half.
Three-balls by Fair and sophomore Michael Gbinije sandwiched around a putback slam from Keita had SU back in front for good at 16-13 with 7:38 to go. A Keita layup two minutes later capped a 13-2 run that extended the advantage to 21-14. Fair and Keita each scored six during the stretch.
Following a runner by Fair with 4:37 left, neither team made a field goal for the remainder of the half until Travis McKie drilled a three just before the buzzer to pull the Demon Deacons within 26-23 at the break.
A furious back-and-forth start to the second half saw Syracuse's lead grow to 40-32 just over six minutes thanks to six points by Grant and five from Ennis.
After a corner three by Coron Williams, Madison Jones stole the inbounds pass and laid it in to bring the Demon Deacons within one possession at 40-37. The hosts wouldn't get any closer as Ennis took over, scoring eight of the Orange's next 11 points to extend the margin to 51-43 with 6:42 to go in the contest.
Over the next five minutes the teams exchanged points with SU still holding onto a 56-47 lead when redshirt sophomore Trevor Cooney began to heat up. Cooney tallied the Orange's next eight points in a span of 44 seconds to push the advantage to 64-52 with one minute left. Ennis tacked on two free throws 12 seconds later to give Syracuse its largest lead of the night at 66-52 and put the game out of reach.
Devin Thomas and McKie each scored 12 points to pace the Demon Deacons. McKie tied for a team-high six rebounds and Thomas chipped in with five boards and three assists.
(Courtesy: Syracuse University Athletics)