No. 2 Syracuse added on to the best start of any team in school history on Sunday by handing Rutgers a 74-64 defeat which marked their 12th consecutive win in the series.
The Orange (27-1, 14-1 Big East) stretched their conference lead to 2 ½ games over Marquette by stifling the offense of the Scarlet Knights (12-15, 4-10). SU allowed their foes to connect on only 3-of-18 three-point shots in the game and just over 35 percent overall in the second half while they connected on 55 percent of their tries after the break.
The contest’s opening minutes were close until Syracuse rang up a 10-2 run to grab a 14-8 lead with seven minutes off the clock. Rutgers responded with a run of their own, including seven straight points to take a 19-16 lead just past the midpoint of the half.
The Scarlet Knights then stretched their lead out to four points, but five straight points by the Orange gave them a 22-21 lead. The hosts quickly regained the lead and the two units traded scores until SU closed the half on an 8-2 run for a 40-34 halftime lead.
Syracuse nudged the margin out to seven points less than four minutes into the second half, but five quick Rutgers points got them within 46-44. The Orange again pushed their lead out to six points on two occasions, but the Scarlet Knights rose to the challenge, clipping the SU lead to two.
Again the two teams traded scores as the difference ranged between two and four points until there were under three minutes to play. At that point, Syracuse posted a decisive run of seven straight points to take a 71-62 lead with 45 seconds to play and held on from there.
C.J. Fair topped Syracuse in scoring for the second straight game, this time recording a personal-best 21 points, including 14 in the first half. Fair was very efficient, as well, making 6-of-8 field goals and all eight of his free throw attempts.
Scoop Jardine led three other SU players in double figures with 17 points, including 11 after the break, as well as collecting three steals on defense. Kris Joseph added 14 points while Fab Melo chipped in with 10.
Wednesday evening, SU welcomes South Florida to the Carrier Dome. The Bulls (17-10, 10-4) have been the biggest surprise of the Big East, as they have won their last four games and currently reside in fifth place.