Wednesday night, #7 Syracuse rallied in the second half to survive Bryce Cotton’s game-high 24 points, knocking off Providence for their second straight Big East road win, 72-66. The Orange (15-1, 3-0 Big East) got double figures in scoring from four different players to more than offset Cotton’s performance, which included five first half three-pointers for the Friars (8-7, 0-3). SU proved to be rude guests, pounding the hosts on the glass and finishing the night with a plus-14 rebounding advantage, including grabbing 18 offensive boards.
After the score was tied three times in the opening five minutes, Syracuse posted six consecutive points in 90 seconds for a 14-8 lead. After each team tacked on two points, Providence scored the next eight to take an 18-16 lead with nine minutes elapsed. Shortly after that, the Friars went on another 8-0 run, this time staking themselves to a 29-21 lead with less than seven minutes until halftime. A couple minutes later, the hosts nudged the margin out to nine points, but the Orange scored the last six points of the half and trailed at the break, 33-30.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Providence pushed the lead back out to six, but SU scored on three straight possessions, all inside the paint, to knot the game at 38 a side with less than five minutes off the clock. The Friars had another surge, scoring eight of the game’s next ten points for a 46-40 lead. Syracuse came to life, going on a 9-2 run to take a one-point lead as the game neared the midpoint of the second half.
Providence scored the next four points for a 52-49 lead, but the Orange responded by taking the lead for good with a 9-1 run. A pair of Friar charity shots got them within 58-55, but SU scored the next six points to take their biggest lead of the night with 1:21 on the clock. The game was not on ice yet, though, as the Orange were sloppy with the ball, turning it over twice to let the hosts get within four with 40 ticks remaining. SU closed the game by making six straight free throws to keep Providence at bay.
C.J. Fair had an outstanding effort, finishing with a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. Six of those boards came on the offensive end, but Fair was also a force on defense, swatting four Friar field goal attempts. Michael Carter-Williams, who shot 1-for-13 in his last game, rebounded with 17 points and five steals. Rakeem Christmas had a strong game, collecting 15 points and three blocked shots. James Southerland chipped in with 13 points while playing 38 minutes off the bench.
Syracuse gets an early wake-up call on Saturday when they return home to take on Villanova. The Wildcats (11-4, 2-0) stumbled in late November and early December, when they dropped four of five, but have bounced back strong with victories in each of their last seven outings. Tip-off is scheduled for noon and the game is available on television on SNY.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)