SYRACUSE With the biggest game of the season looming in three days, Syracuse knew that its singular focus Wednesday night needed to be on red-hot Providence.
So instead of the Friars becoming a trap game heading into the Georgetown Big East finale Saturday before a record Carrier Dome crowd, the No. 8 Orange produced a methodical 84-59 rout that featured one of the biggest scoring runs of the season.
SU (22-4 overall, 10-3 Big East) outscored the Friars 31-4 over the final 10 minutes of the first half, built a 43-16 lead at intermission and coasted the second half to regain a share of the conference lead with Marquette and Georgetown.
Senior James Southerland and junior C.J. Fair both scored 20 points as SU not only produced its highest scoring Big East game of the season, it also recorded the best shooting game of the season at 56.6 percent.
When we move the ball like that, make shots and get out in transition, were one of the best teams in the country, said Southerland, who went 7-for-8 from the floor, 3-for-3 on 3-pointers and grabbed six rebounds. Our good defense led to efficient offense, and thats what we can take from this game. It was a lot of fun.
SU now turns its attention to the Georgetown game at 4 p.m. Saturday. More than a Dome-record 35,000 tickets have been sold for the final league visit to Central New York by the Hoyas.
Its going to be an amazing sight, said Southerland, who was part of the team two years ago when the Orange set the previous attendance record against Villanova. Hopefully, we wont get caught up in the hype. If we execute like tonight, we should be fine.
SU, which extended the nations longest home winning streak to 38 games, has had only two conference games (Rutgers, St. Johns) that did not come down to the final five or six minutes. The players said it was a relief to finally have one of those games where nearly everything fell into place.
You need a few like this along the way that are not so stressful, said senior Brandon Triche, who scored 14 points. When the offense and defense come together like that, it looks so easy.
Fair also had 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double, and sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 assists, his highest assist total in Big East play.
SU coach Jim Boeheim said the first half was probably his teams most complete of the season.
We showed great patience, we moved the ball quickly and then made almost every shot we took, said Boeheim, whose team shot 63 percent the first 20 minutes. They had some really good looks that didnt go down, and we turned them into points so that was a big swing.
After a sluggish start that saw the game tied 12-12 with over 10 minutes left in the first half, the Orange took control with a sensational spurt.
Carter-Williams began things with a baseline drive, and Southerland followed with a put-back and a short jumper.
Sophomore Trevor Cooney came off the bench to score five quick points, Southerland drained a deep 3-pointer, Fair fed Rakeem Christmas for a layup and Southerland delivered a flying jam in transition to extend the run to 17-2 and boost the Orange into a 29-14 lead with 4½ minutes left.
Providence (15-11, 6-8), which saw a four-game winning streak end, scored just one more basket the rest of the half while SU scored 14 to post its biggest halftime lead of the season.
We turned their misses into so many easy baskets, Carter-Williams said. Offensively, we were really aggressive going to the hoop.
The SU defense also did a super job on Providence junior Bryce Cotton, the conference scoring leader. After lighting the Orange up for 24 points, including five 3-pointers, in the first meeting (a 72-66 road win), Cotton managed just 10 points Wednesday, going 3-for-10 from the floor.
Providence shot just 30 percent the first half, missing all six 3-pointers. LaDontae Henton and Vincent Council each scored 15 points for the Friars. Council also dished out seven assists, passing former SU star Sherman Douglas as the all-time Big East assist leader with 431.
Providence head coach Ed Cooley said the Orange showed why they are certainly one of the best teams in the country. We were basically helpless to stop them during that run.