Kris Joseph scored 21 points and Brandon Triche added 14 points and seven assists as No. 5 Syracuse improved to 11-0 with an 83-77 win over Iona.
Still, it was not a smooth ride for Syracuse as they showed a little rust from not playing in the last week. SU allowed Iona (7-4) to get back to within striking distance after twice opening up double-digit leads.
“We played well on the offensive end to get control of the game, but with a 3-point shooting team, they’re never really out of it,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “It’s always difficult coming out of the exam break to get your rhythm.”
The Orange built a 31-20 lead with 5:32 left in the first half as C.J. Fair stole the ball and fed fellow freshman Dion Waiters for a slam. But Iona responded quickly as Scott Machado drained a 3-pointer, and Michael Glover added a pair of baskets to pull Iona back to within 33-31 at the 2:02 mark after an 11-2 run.
“They attacked us extremely well,” Boeheim said. “They made some good plays coming down the stretch and game themselves a chance.”
It happened again in the second half.
This time, Syracuse went on a 11-5 spurt to put the Orange up 15 with 4:40 left. The run was capped by Brandon Triche who grabbed a rebound and raced down the floor before throwing a no-look pass to Joseph for a vicious slam.
But the Gaels fired right back, as Machado and Kyle Smyth each hit 3-pointers to pull Iona back to within 77-70 with 2:51 left. Later, a pair of Machado free throws pulled Iona to within 5 before Dion Waiters finally put the Gaels away with two free throws of his own.
Glover led the way for Iona with 25 points and 16 rebounds while Smith added 22 points for Iona, who saw its seven game win streak snapped.
“Iona as a team though, they were really a tough team to play,” guard Scoop Jardine said. “They slowed us down. Once they did that, our zone got a little bit stagnant. They made plays. They had a good shooter. They also had some really good drivers who could get shots.”
It was not a good game for the Orange on the injury front. Forward C.J. Fair twisted his ankle in the first half and didn’t play after scoring six early points in 14 minutes. Starting center Fab Melo, who had been hobbled with a sore calf, played just five minutes after reinjuring his calf muscle early in the second half.
The minutes went to James Southerland, who played significant minutes for the second game in a row. He played 10 minutes and scored seven points – all in the second half.
“(Southerland) did a good job on offense coming in,” Boeheim said. “With (Fair and Melo) out, it really hurts our depth and hurts us at the center position. We’re going to have to see how they react the next couple of days and go from there.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.