SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The familiar slow start hurt Syracuse and kept an inferior opponent in the game through the first 20 minutes. The difference Monday night was the lack of a big run to gain separation after the intermission to put the game away without any drama. The lack of a big run nearly cost the Orange an early season blemish.
Syracuse trailed throughout most of the second half, and St. Francis made big plays seemingly every time the Orange pulled even. After Tyler Ennis hit a driving layup with 9:29 left, his only field goal of the game, the Terriers responded with a Ben Mockford three pointer.
The Orange again scrapped back to tie score after Baye Keita hit two free throws with 5:16 remaining. St. Francis rattled off four straight points, sparked by another Mockford three. But after a Wayne Martin free throw put the Terriers up 50-46, Syracuse would go on a 10-0 run over the final four minutes to close out the 56-50 win.
"We had to make a couple big defensive stops down at the end," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "We did. Jerami got a monster offensive rebound and when he needed to he made his free throws."
The run was fueled by Jerami Grant, who finished the game with 13 points and 8 rebounds. None bigger than his offensive rebound and layup to knot the game at 50 with 1:29 to go. On the ensuing St. Francis possession, Grant ripped the ball out of Wayne Martin's hands and found a streaking Michael Gbinije for the go-ahead layup.
St. Francis was able to stay in control for most of the second half behind Jalen Cannon, who made plays in the post against Syracuse. The Orange tried rotating each of their bigs, DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita, but Cannon had success against each. He finished with a game high 16 points and 8 boards.
"They were really the first team that got the ball inside," Jim Boeheim said. "We played three games against teams that were doing nothing but shooting on the perimeter. This is the first team that really got the ball in the post and we weren't in good position. They scored 29 points in the paint."
Syracuse was sluggish from the onset, shooting only 40.6% from the floor in the opening half, but got worse at only 26% over the second 20 minutes. DaJuan Coleman had the hot hand early, scoring the Orange's first 8 points and finishing with 14 despite not playing the final 14 minutes of the game.
"We saw St. Francis on tape," Boeheim said. "They're a really, really good defensive team. They're very patient."
Offensive rebounding was a key for Syracuse who snagged 18 of them to help offset their poor shooting. True freshman Tyler Ennis had the worst game of his young career, finishing with just two points on 1-8 shooting. C.J. Fair had a poor shooting night as well, going 2-13 from the floor.
Ironically, free throw shooting also rescued the Orange, who made 15 of their 21 second half attempts from the charity stripe.
With the win, Syracuse improves to 4-0 on the season. They next fly out to Hawaii to continue the Maui Invitational against Minnesota on November 25th.