Dion Waiters scored 16 points; James Southerland added 14 and the Syracuse defense forced 26 turnovers on the way to routing Colgate 92-47 Saturday at the Carrier Dome. But the mood on campus was more focused on an outside situation, though the players used the matter as motivation.
"Tonight we played for him," Baye Moussa Keita said of Bernie Fine, who has been placed on administrative leave by the school.
And the Orange played well.
Syracuse got off to another seemingly slow start offensively, but again the defense got things rolling for the Orange on the way to a convincing win. Coach Jim Boeheim elected to utilize the full-court press early on, and it yielded several turnovers to help the team get on top of Colgate.
Nine minutes into the game, SU led 20-13, but the margin would increase drastically for the remainder of the first half. Southerland and Waiters keyed the offense while the defense forced five quick turnovers over a two-minute span to stretch the lead to 31-20. It only got worse for Colgate from there, as the score read 52-19 at the break. The 32-6 run to close out the half ignited the crowd while easing the tension a bit from what has been a not-so-normal week in Central New York because of the allegations against the Associate Head Coach.
The team dedicated an empty seat to him during the game, and some players were seen touching the chair upon checking out of the game for the first time. After the game, Boeheim downplayed the gesture.
"It was just an empty seat," he said with a smile when asked about it.
Smiles were contagious not only throughout the win, but by players in support of the coach who has been on campus since the 1970's. Even freshman Michael Carter-Williams, who is among the newest members of the SU basketball family.
"He's a great guy," the guard said of Fine. "We are staying positive (for him), with the team and focusing on basketball."
With their coach in mind, the No. 5 team in America never stepped off of the gas against the Raiders.
The defense continued to play inspired in the second half, allowing just four Colgate free throw attempts after holding the Raiders to just two tries in the first 20 minutes of play.
Both during the big first half run and throughout the second half, the bench players continued to prove their worth. Not only did Waiters and Southerland combine for 30 points in the win, but fellow reserve C.J. Fair added 13 points in 18 minutes of action. The depth of the team once again proved to be one of the differences in the outcome of the game.
The Syracuse offense was also efficient with the ball in its hands, finishing the afternoon having committed just nine turnovers. The shot selection was often good and the field goal percentage (49.2 percent) was a reflection of the trend.
The only downside of the victory was the fact that a leader was forced to play limited minutes because of a re-aggravated injury.
Senior forward Kris Joseph did not play in the second half, but Boeheim said that he re-injured his knee during the week of practice.
He is not expected to miss considerable playing time.