SYRACUSE Suddenly without one of its key players, Syracuse’s men’s basketball team had to carry on – and C.J. Fair helped them do so.
Saturday at the Carrier Dome, Fair’s 22 points, along with help from the freshman trio of Jerami Grant, Dajuan Coleman and Trevor Cooney, helped the no. 7-ranked Syracuse off Villanova, 72-61, to improve to 16-1 and 4-0 in Big East play in front of a crowd of 27,165, the largest of the season so far.
The Orange have won 34 straight home games, the longest active home game winning streak in the nation in Division I men’s basketball. The Wildcats (11-5, 2-1) had its own seven-game win streak snapped at SU’s expense. SU has not been defeated in a Big East regular-season home game since Georgetown topped the Orange 64-56 in February 2011.
Fair got his 22 points from seven-for-11 shooting from the floor and also had five rebounds. Grant had a career-best 13 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes, while Coleman chimed in with six points.
Cooney registered two second half 3-pointers in a 44 second span that were quite timely. At that point, With 6:56 left, Villanova only trailed by six, but Cooney's triples raised the lead back to 52-40.
Improving at the foul line from its recent play, the Orange made 24 of 30 free throws (80 percent), including eight of 10 in the last 1:30 to put the game away.
“I thought of all our wins the last couple of years, this was the grittiest, toughest performance I think we have had,” said SU head coach Jim Boeheim. “Everybody just dug in there defensively. We just kept battling away.”
And all of this was done without James Southerland, SU’s second-leading scorer with 13.6 points per game. Just before game time, it was announced that Southerland suspended indefinitely by the school (not the NCAA) because of an eligibility matter.