It didn’t take C.J. Fair long to know he was in for a good game.
Syracuse’s slick forward made two free throws in the first minute of play against Long Beach State on Thursday night, then tipped in his first basket less than a minute later as the fourth-ranked Orange started fast and beat the 49ers 84-53.
Fair had 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, and Michael Carter-Williams added 15 points and 10 assists for Syracuse (7-0). The Orange upped their home winning streak to 27 games, tops in the nation, and won their 49th consecutive regular-season nonconference game.
It was the third double-double of the season for Carter-Williams, the Orange’s 6-foot-6 point guard, who boosted his assist total for the season to 67. Trevor Cooney matched his career high with 11 points, and Rakeem Christmas had a career-high 11 points.
Syracuse played long ball in the first half, hitting 7 of 15 from beyond the arc in building a 20-point halftime lead, but it was that start that sent the 49ers back on their heels.
The Orange dominated the glass and finally found their range from outside. Syracuse outrebounded Long Beach State 10-2 in the first 6 minutes, with Fair converting a follow after two misses in close to stake the Orange to a 16-4 lead at 14:31.
”The way I shot (my foul shots) early, I felt it was going to be a nice little day for me,” Fair said. ”After that, I got a couple of easy baskets to get me going. When we’re winning by a lot, it’s hard to get your rhythm. I tried to focus on that.”
Syracuse finished with a 53-39 edge on the glass and has not been outrebounded this season. Freshman big man Dajuan Coleman had nine boards, and Christmas, Brandon Triche, Jerami Grant, and James Southerland all had five.
”I think our only deficiency as a team was rebounding,” said Triche, who finished with 11 points and five assists. ”We were so good offensively, but teams would still beat us by five or even 10 rebounds. This year it just makes us a better team. We’re able to get in transition a lot better and get more possessions.”
Long Beach State (3-5) has beaten two ranked teams under coach Dan Monson, Pittsburgh and Xavier, and both were last season. But so far this season the 49ers are 0 for 3, having also lost to North Carolina (78-63) and Arizona (94-72).
”Our margin for error is zero,” Monson said. ”You can’t simulate that length. You can do all the rebounding drills you want. It just knocked us back and we were never able to recover. We let them get off to a good start and didn’t make them uncomfortable.”
Dan Jennings had a career-high 20 points and Peter Pappageorge added 11 for Long Beach State. James Ennis, the 49ers’ leading scorer and rebounder, had 10 points and seven boards.
It was unlike the first six games for the Orange. Syracuse entered the game 33 of 112 from beyond the arc (29.5 percent), and without super sub Southerland’s contribution — 18 of 38 (47.4 percent) — that figure was a whole lot worse (20.3 percent).
In its win over Eastern Michigan on Monday night, Syracuse shot 1 for 10 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished 5 of 22. On this night, the Orange finished 10 of 28 and held the 49ers to 5 of 24 from long range, with Carter-Williams hitting 3 of 8 after going 1 for 15 in the first six games.
”In the beginning, they obviously have seen us shoot the ball from the perimeter and they gave us some open looks,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said after his 897th career win. ”Trevor and Brandon and Michael made some in the first part of the game. That kind of broke the game open and it stayed that way.”
Long Beach State rallied as Pappageorge and Ennis hit 3-pointers and Ennis converted a dunk on an alley-oop pass. But after Pappageorge hit another from beyond the arc to pull the 49ers within 25-19, the Orange shifted into high gear.
Cooney drained a 3, Grant hit a jumper, Cooney followed with a steal and dunk, and Carter-Williams and Triche hit 3-pointers to put the Orange up 38-26 with 4:38 left.
”We wanted to come out and try to get some confidence in the first four minutes of the game, prove to ourselves that we could play with these guys,” Pappageorge said. ”Unfortunately, they came out and kind of hit us in the mouth.”
Syracuse closed the half with an 11-3 spurt to take command. Carter-Williams, who leads the nation in assists, had six without a turnover before the break, the prettiest coming on an over-the-shoulder pass to Christmas for a dunk that boosted the lead to 14.
The Orange had their share of luck, too. When Grant dropped the ball in the lane on a drive, it landed at the feet of Christmas, and he slammed it home with 1:37 left.
Mike Caffey’s jumper at the buzzer for Long Beach State made it 49-29 at halftime, but the Orange didn’t let up in the second half. Syracuse opened with a 12-4 run and built the lead to 28 points on Southerland’s lay-in with 15:49 left. It was the first and only basket of the game for the Orange’s leading scorer.