CORAL GABLES, Fla. — What started out as a Syracuse romp turned into a gritty, grind-it-out affair for the second-ranked Orange in a 64-52 victory over Miami in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup Saturday.
Up by double digits in the first half, the Orange (19-0, 6-0 in the ACC) broke from a 49-49 tie to outscore the Hurricanes, 15-3, over the final five minutes to remain unbeaten in conference play while matching their second-best start in school history.
The Orange can tie their best start ever — set two seasons ago — with a victory at Wake Forest on Wednesday and could be going for a school record for victories to start a season when Duke visits the Carrier Dome next weekend.
“I don’t care what our record is,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who recorded his 939th victory. “We’ve had seven games just like this one that could have easily gone the other way.
“All seven games, somebody has made a play.”
In this one it was guard Trevor Cooney, whose 3-pointer with 2:25 remaining gave the Orange a 56-50 cushion and seemed to deflate the Hurricanes (10-9, 2-5).
The Hurricanes missed two chances to cut into that six-point margin when center Tonye Jekiri missed a jumper and guard Garrius Adams was off on a 3-pointer.
The Orange were up by 58-50 with under a minute left.
“I thought that was a very, very good college basketball game, right up to maybe the last-minute-and-a-half,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “We were right where we needed to be, where we wanted to be.
“But Syracuse is that good. Tyler Ennis is that good.”
Although he had only two free throws down the stretch, Ennis, a freshman guard, kept things cool for the Orange.
Forward Jerami Grant led four Syracuse double-figure scorers with 16 points. Ennis scored 14, forward C.J. Fair added 13 and Cooney had 11.
Miami freshman guard Davon Reed led all scorers with 16 points and guard Rion Brown added 13 for the Hurricanes.
Rebounding was a huge key. The Orange dominated the boards, 39-24, and had 14 at their end that led to a 13-3 advantage for the Orange in second chance points.
“Rebounding, especially at the start of the game, was how we got out to such a big lead,” Ennis said.
The Orange came out on fire, hitting their first four shots, including three 3-pointers, in building a 26-8 less than 12 minutes into the game.
“We got off to an unbelievable start,” Boeheim said.
But the Hurricanes responded with an 11-0 run, capped by guard Brown’s 3-pointer, that got their deficit down to 26-19 with under three minutes left in the first half.
“We didn’t want it to be another Duke game where we were pretty much out of the game early,” said Brown, referring to the 21-point loss to the Blue Devils in Miami’s previous outing.
“We fought back. It got to 18, 20, and we really started playing and locking them down. The main thing is, we started making them miss.”
Syracuse finished the first half 11-of-20 from the field but were only 10-of-27 in the second.
The Orange stopped the bleeding with Grant’s dunk, but only temporarily.
The Hurricanes then went on a 7-1 run that had them within 29-26 before forward Rakeem Christmas scored on a layup with four seconds remaining in the half to give Syracuse a 31-26 advantage at the break.
The Orange led, 39-31, less than seven minutes into the second half before the Hurricanes began another comeback that eventually tied the score, 46-46, with 8:20 left in the game.
The teams fought on even terms for the next few minutes before the Orange pulled away.
NOTES: Saturday’s game was the second meeting between the Orange and Hurricanes. Each member of the 15-team ACC has four opponents it plays on a home-and-home basis and 11 other opponents it plays once. The Orange won the first meeting, 49-44, on Jan. 4. … The game matched the top two defensive teams statistically in the ACC in conference play. Coming into the game, Syracuse had allowed an average
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