Behind a game-best 17 points from senior forward Kris Joseph the No. 1 team in the country, Syracuse University, didn't experience a letdown Tuesday and remained unbeaten after it earned a non-conference victory, 80-61, against visiting Bucknell University at the Carrier Dome. Freshman forward Rakeem Christmas added a collegiate-best 10 points and collected five rebounds for SU (12-0), which became the eighth team in program history to start the season with 12 straight wins.
"It's always tough," said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, who's squad earned a big, 88-72, road victory Saturday over N.C. State University, "coming off a monster game Saturday where you get home late. It's always difficult to bounce back and given the circumstance we did bounce back."
Junior forward Mike Muscala netted a team-best 14 points for Bucknell (7-5), which opened the game with a 2-0 advantage, but never led after that. SU took the lead for good using seven-early points from Christmas to gain a 9-4 advantage just four minutes into the game. Propelled by a strong effort by their defensive, which in the first half held the Bison to just 1-for-9 (11.1-percent) shooting from behind the 3-point arc, the Orange lead, 39-22, at halftime.
In the second half, SU increased its lead to as much as 22 points, 49-27, after senior guard Scoop Jardine made a layup with 11:26 remaining in the game. However, behind six points for Muscala the Bison rallied, and were able to trim the Orange margin to just 13 points, 66-53, with 4:45 to go.
SU was able to halt the comeback with the help from a 3-pointer from Jardine, who finished with 14 points, and a pair of free throws from freshman guard Michael Cater-Williams that gave the Orange a 71-53 lead with 3:20 to go. From there, Williams and sophomore forward C.J. Fair nailed two free throws each to cement the victory for the Orange.
"The difference in the game in the first half, they had four or five wide-open shots and just missed them," said Boeheim. "If they made those shot it would have been an eight-point game at halftime which it should have been, but because they missed those shots and missed them badly, we got break outs and got down the court."
"If they had made a couple more shots in the first half this would have been a close game," said Boeheim. "They're a good team. They will play in the NCAA Tournament and they will be a difficult team to play against."
Sophomore center Fab Melo tallied nine points and a team-best eight rebounds, while Bucknell's sophomore guard Ben Brackney came off the bench to score 11 points. Junior forward Joe Williams also finished in double digits with 10 points.
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SB Nation New York blogged from press row at the Carrier Dome Tuesday night, as the Syracuse Orange beat the Bucknell Bison. Be sure to check back for more postgame stuff and visit SB Nation's Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician for everything SU. Follow along on Twitter at SBNationNY or JaredSmithCNY.