SYRACUSE - For the second year in a row Monday the No. 4-ranked Syracuse Orange defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles, 84-48, in a non-confernece men's basketball game at the Carrier Dome.
The Orange (6-0) extended the school record and nation's longest home winning streak to 26 games thanks to a full-court press defense that forced 24 turnovers by the Eagles (5-2), who shot just 29-percent from the floor.
Below are my observations on Monday's victory.
-- Six games into the season, the only player to score in double figures every game is senior guard Brandon Triche, who's averaging 15 point per game and shooting an outstanding 45-percent from the field.
-- Despite not being as explosive as some might of hoped he would be, sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas has been very steady. Christmas is averaging 6.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 blocks per game, is shooting 53-percent from the field and has made 7 of 8 free throws.
That includes his awful game at Arkansas where he tallied no points and three rebounds in just 12 minutes.
-- The lopsided score allowed head coach Jim Boeheim to give his three freshmen - center DaJuan Coleman, guard Trevor Cooney and forward Jerami Grant - extensive playing time.
Coleman tallied collegiate-highs in playing minutes (22), points (14) and shooting percentage (5-for-6, 83-percent); Cooney compiled collegiate-bests in points (11) and 3-pointers made (2); and Grant posted career-highs in points (11) and blocks (2).
In the end, Grant's totals were a bit more important in the victory. SU trailed 10-3 early in the first half and rallied behind its full-court press defense to runaway from Eastern Michigan to take a commanding 35-17 lead into halftime.
During that span, Grant checked into the game at the 6:19 mark and played the rest of the first half. He finished with six points, a steal, a block, a rebound and went 2-for-3 from the free-throw line.
At Boeheim's post-game press conference, I asked how important a night like Monday was important to Grant's development as a player, he responded:
"He responded well, he was probably the best player in the first half," Boeheim said. "He finished around the basket in the first half. His defense was good. He hit a 3. He was solid."
In the locker room, Grant said he was just trying to be as aggressive as possible.
"I was trying to be aggressive - when I got into the game - because you don't know how long you're going to play in the game," Grant said. "You got to take advantages of the opportunities you get, so when I got onto the court that's what I did."
Grant admitted winning makes it easier to sit on the bench for extended periods of time, "its hard to be frustrated with a win."
-- Along with Boeheim's post-game lecture on non-conference scheduling, the 68-year-old coach went a brief rant about playing time among his nine players.
"Most teams have six or seven guys we have nine," Boeheim said. "The vast majority of college basketball teams - 99-percent - play seven guys.
"The teams that usually play everybody they lose. I don't want to be that team. I don't want to play everybody and lose. I want to play the guys that we need to win."
-- Eastern Michigan probably was the best defensive team Syracuse had faced all season, however, the Eagles were limited so much on offense the Orange were able to easily take advantage.
-- Despite what Boeheim said Monday about non-conference schedules, the rest of SU's non-conference slate is pretty easy.
Thursday's opponent, the Long Beach St. 49ers, is 3-4 overall. The 49ers did hang with the North Carolina Tar Heels a few weeks back - Long Beach trailed by just two points with 15 minutes to play - but was blown out by the Arizona Wildcats and just lost to Fresno St. Bulldogs, who're 4-3 overall.
SU's next biggest non-conference test will be the Temple Owls, Dec. 22, at Madison Square Garden. Temple is 5-0 overall and will be battled tested before the contest, as it play the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils, Dec. 8, before it plays Syracuse on a neutral floor.
-- For more on Syracuse and Big East Conference men's basketball follow Jared Smith on Twitter (@JaredSmithCNY).