TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Syracuse was dangerously close to letting another less talented opponent pull off the upset when C.J. Fair took over Sunday. The seventh-ranked Orange had let a sporadic Florida State team rally late in the first half and get within a point in the second.
Then Fair got going.
The senior forward scored 15 of his 22 points after halftime and led Syracuse to a 74-58 victory in the programs first trip to Florida State.
We saw right away he got it going, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. He had the hot hand. When he gets it, were going to get him the ball.
This was his best offensive game probably since Duke.
Syracuse will be the No. 2 seed when the ACC tournament begins Friday in Greensboro, N.C.
The Orange, who ended a two-game losing streak, had lost 4 of 5 including two to sub-.500 teams after starting the season 25-0. They had been ranked No. 1 for three weeks and No. 2 for the previous eight weeks before the losses started piling up.
It was huge for us to get this, Boeheim said. Last year we went through this and we had lost (three) and went to Georgetown to try to get momentum back and got beat by 35.
Weve struggled to score. We scored the ball. Did a good job on the boards and our defense was good. ... Momentum can be a funny thing. We turned it around last year in one game. You can do that and this will help us.
Jerami Grant, who had been bothered by back problems recently, had 16 points and eight rebounds while Tyler Ennis finished with 16 points for Syracuse (27-4, 14-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). Syracuses athleticism was too much for Florida State to handle as the Orange had a 43-24 advantage on the glass, including 17 offensive rebounds.
Im definitely feeling a lot better, Grant said. I was able to come out and help my team however they needed me to help today. I think that definitely helped us get the victory today.
Boeheim said, Were a completely different team with Jerami Grant. If he wasnt able to go tonight, we wouldnt be very happy right now. Hes key to what we do.
Okaro White led Florida State with 20 points and 10 rebounds to record his fifth double-double of the season. Fellow senior Ian Miller scored 16 points in his last home game while Aaron Thomas chipped in 14.
Their zone was pretty good today, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. It was a challenge for our guys to execute the things we had in their game plan because they kept making adjustments, and thats what their defense does to you.
Syracuse ran away from the Seminoles in the second half behind Fair and two big baskets from Trevor Cooney.
A 6-0 Florida State run cut the lead to 47-46, but the Orange answered with a burst that put the game away. Miller forced a bad 3-point attempt and Cooney responded with his first 3-pointer of the game on the following possession. Cooney buried another after a defensive stop and Syracuse went on to an 18-6 run that extended the lead to 65-52. The Florida State offense didnt have enough juice against the Syracuse zone to make another run.
The Orange outshot the Seminoles 48.3 percent to 38.0 percent.
Every team goes through those rough stretches, Grant said. We went through a little rough stretch, but were back and were flying just in time for the tournament.
White kept the Seminoles in the game during the first half, scoring 14 of Florida States 27 points. He scored 10 consecutive points for Florida State to take an 18-17 lead after a putback.
The Orange answered with a 14-2 run that nearly put the Seminoles away before the break. The run was capped by consecutive fast-break layups from Ennis, one part of a three-point play, to go up 31-20. Syracuse was shooting 47 percent from the field at the time, 11 percent better than Florida State, and had a 20-10 rebounding advantage.
The Seminoles worked the deficit back to single digits with a 7-2 stretch to close the half, highlighted by a tip-dunk off an offensive rebound by White with 1 second left.