SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse (12-4, 3-0) beat Florida State (9-7, 1-2) behind hot shooting from Trevor Cooney, efficient play by point guard Kaleb Joseph and more strong inside play from center Rakeem Christmas.
Syracuse raced out to an early double digit lead behind a 11-2 run midway through the first half. The Seminoles cut the lead down before intermission with a 6-0 spurt of their own, but Michael Gbinije scored before the buzzer to give the Orange a comfortable 11-point advantage at the half.
"We were really good on offense tonight," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "We moved the ball. We found people. We didn't turn it over. Kaleb did a great job of getting in the lane, finding people. Trevor got a hot hand and then made some nice plays off the dribble, which is the biggest part of the improvement to his game this year."
The Orange opened the second half with a 10-3 run to extend their lead. Florida State cut the lead to nine with 10:56 remaining, but a Gbinije three quickly sparked a 6-1 Orange run to push the lead back to double digits. The ‘Noles again cut the lead to nine with 5:30 left, but Cooney responded with a three this time.
The zone was effective throughout Sunday night’s contest, forcing Florida State into poor outside shooting, 13 turnovers and many contested shots. Despite having a significant size advantage inside with three 7-footers on the roster, the ‘Noles only won the rebounding battle by one.
"Our defense was good," Boeheim said. "We guarded the three-point line. Did a pretty good job in and around the basket."
Christmas finished with a monster game, hitting double figures for the 15th time in 16 games. His final line was 14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Cooney finished with 28 points on 9-16 shooting, including 7-11 from beyond the arc. He also added three steals.
The big news, however, was the status of freshman forward Chris McCullough. At the 11:51 mark of the first half, McCullough landed awkwardly and could not put pressure on his right leg as he was helped off the court and into the locker room. He did not return to the game. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said no update was immediately available and they hoped to know more on Monday.
The win was Syracuse’s sixth straight.
WHAT WE LIKED: Syracuse moved the ball well offensively, handing out 18 assists to just seven turnovers. Freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph may have only had five points, but he had a big impact with his strong play throughout. He led Syracuse with seven assists and only turned it over once while also snatching two steals. His floor vision, patience and efficiency was as good as it’s been in several games.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: Forgetting about actual game play for a minute, it was tough to see McCullough go down. You never want a player to get hurt and you always feel bad for the player. Let’s hope McCullough’s injury is not as serious as it is feared and he is able to come back.
KEY MOMENT: Syracuse was holding a 15-10 lead midway through the first half when the Orange went on an 11-2 run led by three three-pointers by Gbinije, Cooney and Ron Patterson. The Orange lead was extended to 26-12 at the 7:35 mark of the first half and the Seminoles never got closer than nine the rest of the game.
QUOTABLE: "We'll find out about Chris (McCullough) tomorrow. It's too bad. He's been playing well in practice. He started out the game and hit that jump shot, got to the basket. He's been playing better in practice so it's unfortunate. But we'll find out tomorrow. Have no idea, right now, what it is. But we'll find out in the morning and just hope for the best."
-- Jim Boeheim on Chris McCullough's injury
STATS OF THE DAY: Syracuse finished 10-17 from beyond the three-point arc, compared to just 2-16 for Florida State. Syracuse won the rebounding battle 39-35 as well. The Orange defense held FSU leading scorer Devon Bookert to just six points on 2-12 shooting including 0-6 from three-point range.
NOTES: The win was the sixth in a row for Syracuse. Rakeem Christmas posted his fifth double-double of the season. It was the 15th time he scored in double figures.
UP NEXT: Syracuse stays home to face Wake Forest on Tuesday, January 14th at 8:00pm.
Boeheim Post-Game Video: