Andy Rautins sat on the Syracuse bench laughing with Wes Johnson. The Orange were in high gear again and it was kind of fun being a spectator for a change.
“I said, ‘Man, this is so much fun playing with this team because of the way we move the ball, the way we play defense.’ ” Rautins said after the No. 8 Orange beat Maine 101-55 on Saturday night. “We wanted to go out there and beat them by 100.”
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Freshman guard Brandon Triche had 16 points to lead five players in double figures for the Orange (8-0), who overwhelmed Maine (3-4) in the first half. Syracuse took a 60-12 halftime lead as the Black Bears made only four baskets in the opening period.
“It just makes it so fun to play because you know everyone can score,” Triche said. “We have confidence in ourselves and the whole team.”
Orange coach Jim Boeheim began subbing freely as 10 players saw action early. Mookie Jones hit three 3-pointers to lead all scorers in the opening half, but it didn’t matter who did the shooting. Syracuse was 24 of 35 (68.6 percent) in the period and 8 of 14 (57.1 percent) from beyond the arc, though no player broke double figures.
“In the first half again, we shot the ball well,” Boeheim said. “We make shots that are difficult to defend. We open up the inside. We did a very good job of finding the right people moving the ball, very unselfish play.”
Gerald McLemore finished with 21 points to lead Maine.
Arinze Onuaku and Kris Joseph each had 14 points, Jones had 12, Scoop Jardine had 10 points and seven assists, and Rick Jackson had eight points and eight rebounds for Syracuse. Johnson, averaging a team-leading 18.4 points, had a season-low seven points but added three assists, four blocks and two steals in 19 minutes, while Rautins finished with eight points and nine assists in 18 minutes.
Syracuse was coming off a dominant victory over Colgate, which trailed 47-16 at halftime, and the Black Bears suffered an even worse fate. Just two nights after Maine won at Colgate by 10 points, it was limited to 12.9 percent shooting – 4 of 31 – in the first half as Syracuse registered eight blocks and eight steals.
That was one point off the Syracuse record for fewest points allowed in a half, set against Princeton a decade ago.
“You don’t want to expect that you’ll miss some shots and not play well and have them make a lot of shots,” Maine coach Ted Woodward said. “You’re trying to do things your team has done, but we knew we were going up against a juggernaut. We knew that this was going to be a very difficult challenge. We knew we were going to have to make some early shots and hope that they missed some along the way. Unfortunately, it didn’t go that way in the first half.”
Mike Allison‘s follow with 11:25 left, Maine‘s third basket of the game, made it 26-10. But the Black Bears managed only one more basket before the break as Syracuse scored 32 straight points, and it came on a goaltending call against Jackson in the final minute.
The top three scorers for the Black Bears – McLemore, Sean McNally, and Terrance Mitchell came in averaging more than 13 points – were 3 of 14 for eight points in the half. McLemore hit a pair of 3-pointers, the only Maine player to score more than one basket.
It didn’t take very long for Maine to know it was going to be a long night. Triche hit from the top of the key, Onuaku followed with a lay-in, and Jackson had a reverse layup in a span of just over a minute to give the Orange a 13-3 lead less than 4 minutes in.
“Our chemistry is great out there. Every guy is going out there and put their heart out for one another. That’s what’s going to keep winning games,” said Rautins, who needs one 3-pointer to tie Eric Devendorf for third all-time at Syracuse at 208. “It’s so much fun playing with these guys because they know where to be at all times.
“We’re just going to keep getting better. We still have a lot to work on.”
Syracuse, which leads the nation in assists per game, finished with 28, five above its average.