Created: 12/31/2013 5:22 PM WHEC.com
By: Associated Press
Jerami Grant scored 15 points in his first start of the season, Rakeem Christmas matched his career high with 15 points, and No. 2 Syracuse beat Eastern Michigan 70-48 on Tuesday in the final nonconference game for both teams.
Syracuse (13-0) raced to a 20-point lead in the first half, allowed the Eagles to slice it in half before the break, then regained control early in the second and won its 51st straight nonconference game in the Carrier Dome. The Orange are one of seven unbeaten teams in Division I and begin play in the Atlantic Coast Conference against Miami on Saturday.
Three of Eastern Michigan's losses coming into the game were against ranked teams - Duke, Kentucky, and UMass. The Eagles (7-5), coached by former Syracuse assistant Rob Murphy, also lost 69-64 at Purdue, managing to average only 60.7 points in the four games.
C.J. Fair finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, and Trevor Cooney had 10 points for the Orange. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, second nationally in assist to turnover ratio (4.69), matched his season high with nine assists to go with two turnovers and pulled down five rebounds but did not score.
Sophomore forward Dajuan Coleman has a contusion in his left leg and did not play, watching the game dressed in sweats on the Syracuse bench. Coleman, who's been receiving treatment for the injury, played only six minutes in Syracuse's 78-62 win over Villanova on Saturday.
Glenn Bryant led Eastern Michigan with 19 points and eight rebounds and Raven Lee had 12 points. Leading scorer Karrington Ward had five points, 10 below his average, on 2-of-10 shooting. Former Syracuse center Da'Shonte Riley, a 7-footer, was a nonfactor, failing to score or snare a rebound in 15 minutes of play.
Thrust into the starting lineup for the first time this season, Grant responded by scoring 11 points in the first 7 minutes as Syracuse raced to an early double-digit lead. The Orange put together a 19-4 spurt as the Eagles sputtered mightily, making just 3 of their first 16 shots and committing eight turnovers in the opening 12 minutes in a game featuring zone defenses at both ends.
After Darell Combs hit a 3 to pull Eastern Michigan to 11-6, Cooney started the Syracuse run with a 3 from the left wing and Fair and Grant followed with dunks to give Syracuse an 18-6 lead at 13:28.
Christmas converted an lay-in to complete a pretty passing play under the basket with Ennis and Tyler Roberson to boost the Orange lead to 30-10 at 7:33, but the Eagles finally got something going and closed the half with a 15-6 surge keyed by a pair of three-point plays from Bryant.
In the final 80 seconds, Fair and Christmas missed dunks and Grant was called for goaltending, and a pair of free throws by Mike Talley with 1.7 seconds left narrowed the Orange's lead to 36-27 at the break.
EMU moved within 36-30 in the first minute of the second half when Talley drained a 3-pointer from the wing, but Christmas responded with a putback, Fair sank two free throws, and Cooney hit his second 3 of the game to give the Orange a 12-point lead less than 4 minutes in.
Lee's 3-pointer closed the gap to 44-37 at 15:53, but Syracuse responded with a 14-2 run. Christmas's putback capped it at 7:46 and gave the Orange a 58-39 edge.