"Our game plan was not to let Warrick, Edelin and McNamara go nuts," Izzo said. "Jose Pace doomed us, especially early."
Pace scored a career-high 22 points, had eight rebounds, four assists, two assists and one block as #17/20 Syracuse defeated Michigan State in front of a season-high 25,869 fans.
Syracuse, now 9-1, extends its winning streak to nine and opens up Big East play by hosting St. John's on Wednesday.
Pace hit 10-of-12 field goals in the contest and was 2-of-4 from the foul line. He surpassed his previous career-best of 15 points, which he set in SU's season-opener against Charlotte.
"I think the first half was Josh (Pace) and Billy (Edelin)," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "People are playing Gerry (McNamara) and Hakim (Warrick) real tight, doubling and looking for him, and it creates opportunities for those two guys. They both stepped up big today. They were huge."
Besides Pace, three other Orangemen scored in double-digits. Sophomore Billy Edelin had 22 points, while junior Hakim Warrick had 21, including nine points from the free-throw line. It was the first time SU has had three players with 20 or more points since the Orangemen played at Notre Dame on March 4, 2003. Sophomore Gerry McNamara chipped in with 18 points and connected on three three-pointers. He now has 118 triples in his career, which ranks eighth on SU's all-time list.
While it was a typical day on the court for Pace, Warrick, Edelin and McNamara, centers Craig Forth and Jeremy McNeil stepped up as well. Forth played 24 minutes, had five points, seven rebounds, three blocks, one steal and an assist. McNeil played 16 minutes had four points, three rebounds and a block.
"Our centers weren't ready, " Boeheim said. "That was my biggest question in the last game. Our centers in the last game or two have not been ready. Tonight, Craig (Forth) was tremendous. He moved around and got a couple big plays early. Hak's doing a tremendous job of finding him."
Syracuse led the entire game. The Orangemen jumped out to a 13-5 lead with 16:14 to go in the first half. Michigan State's Maurice Ager scored five consecutive points to cut the Syracuse lead to four, 14-10, but back-to-back field goals by Pace and McNamara gave SU an 18-10 lead at 13:16. Syracuse took a 44-34 lead into the half, thanks to a full court inbounds pass from Forth to Pace with just a second remaining on the clock.
Syracuse took its biggest lead of the game 55-34 with 16:49 remaining in the game as it scored the first 11 points of the second half. A three-pointer by Chris Hill made the score 70-61 with 8:25 remaining in the contest. Warrick scored six straight SU points and senior Ronneil Herron (shooting for an injured Pace) connected on a pair free-throws to extend SU's margin to 14, 84-70, at 3:35.
"I had a hunch," Boeheim said. "He's one of our good foul shooters in practice – him and Andrew Kouwe are our two best, really, and it was between them, really. Ronneil's a pretty tough kid. He was a good athlete in high school. He plays against Billy every day and kind of holds his own pretty good. I thought he'd go in and have a good chance to make at least one, and he made them both. Good coaching."
Syracuse hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final three minutes with McNamara making the last four.
The Spartans' Paul Davis scored 21 points, including 14 points in the second half. Chris Hill went for 16 points, including four three-pointers. He also notched nine assists. Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager scored 15 and 14 points, respectively.
"We wanted to prove ourselves to the country, because this was our first real test, "Edelin said. We wanted to come out and limit the open looks, and make them work hard for every basket. We still have some things to work on, but I think we played well overall."
With the Big East season just a few days a way, Boeheim will enjoy this win, well until 2:00 Sunday afternoon.
"This gives me the confidence that we're going to have practice tomorrow at 2 o'clock,"he said. " It's been a good, pretty productive non-conference schedule. We've still got a lot of work to do. Now the tough games really start."
Orange 9-1 With Win Over MSU
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