No. 4 Syracuse 108, Monmouth (NJ) 56
When last season wound down and Syracuse was chasing a berth in the Final Four, guard Michael Carter-Williams was a spectator.
Now, he's leading the way for the Orange.
Carter-Williams had 15 points and a career-high 16 assists, C.J. Fair had 14 points and 10 rebounds, the second straight double-double for both players, and No. 4 Syracuse beat Monmouth of New Jersey 108-56 on Saturday night.
Carter-Williams, who also had five steals and four blocks, has reached double digits in assists five times in eight games and his 83 assists are 29 more than he had his entire freshman season.
His total for the game was the third-highest in school history, behind only Sherman Douglas (22) and Pearl Washington (18).
''I just like to do everything on the basketball court,'' Carter-Williams said. ''I like to get assists, I like to score, get blocks, steals, rebounds. To get a steal or a pass to my teammates is a great feeling.''
Syracuse (8-0) has won 28 straight home games, the longest streak in the nation, and 50 straight nonconference games in the regular season. Monmouth (5-5), which had won four of five, is 0-42 against teams from the Big East.
Douglas holds the school record for assists in a game, still an NCAA record he shares with Tony Fairley and Avery Johnson, whose 13.3 assist-per-game average in 1988 is the NCAA benchmark.
Douglas's 8.6 assists per game and 326 assists led the nation in 1988-89 and are school marks. Carter-Williams has his sights set on averaging double digits in assists.
''I wouldn't say it's a goal. It would be nice to do. It all depends on my teammates,'' Carter-Williams said. ''I'm going to get them the ball regardless if they make or miss. It all depends on how they shoot. I think I can do it. Coach believes I can do it.''
Brandon Triche had 18 points and eight of the Orange's 30 assists, Trevor Cooney had a career-high 15 points as he went 5 of 9 from behind the arc, and James Southerland finished with 14.
Rakeem Christmas added 11 points and four blocks, and freshman Dajuan Coleman had 11 points and a season-high 14 rebounds as Syracuse dominated the glass 63-38, including 25-12 on the offensive glass.
Ed Waite, who had a career-high 23 points at Binghamton on Monday, led the Hawks with 10 points and Gary Cox had nine. Andrew Nicholas, Monmouth's leading scorer at 15.7 points per game, finished with five.
Syracuse overcame a slow start - the Orange hit only 8 of their first 22 shots - and finished 42 of 82 from the floor. The Orange hit 11 of 30 from long range, blocked 14 shots and had 12 steals. Monmouth shot 21 of 66 (31.8 percent).
The Hawks' small lineup figured to be a problem and was. Monmouth's tallest starter was the 6-foot-6 Nicholas, the same as Carter-Williams, but the Hawks were game and hung tough at the outset.
Monmouth shrugged off the Orange's 2-3 zone and early press and led 13-12 on the 6-foot-5 Cox's dunk over the 6-9 Christmas at 13:07.
''We just wanted to come out and stay together the whole time, try to play as hard as we can and see what happens,'' Cox said.
But after Max DiLeo's free throw tied the game at 19, the Orange took off, dominating inside and hitting six from beyond the arc.
Triche's 3-pointer and another by Carter-Williams sent Syracuse on a 30-6 run as the Orange outscored the Hawks 38-9 to close the half.
Syracuse had eight blocks in the half and they took a toll. Carter-Williams and Fair registered consecutive blocks on the same possession and Southerland converted a three-point play at the other end for a 35-21 lead with 6:07 left.
After Cooney made his second 3 of the period, he tried again the next time down the court and threw up an air ball. No problem. Fair snared the rebound and put it in.
Less than two minutes later, Christmas blocked Ed Waite's shot at the rim and Cooney hit another 3 to boost the lead to 47-25.
''They were much bigger. We've just got to do better at trying to finish inside,'' Cox said. ''The plan was to drive and kick. Most of the time we drove we just tried to finish over them. We didn't realize how big they were.''
Coleman scored six straight points and Triche's driving layup gave Syracuse a 57-28 lead at the break.
The onslaught continued at the start of the second half. Syracuse scored the first 13 points, giving them 21 in a row and 51 in a span of 11:26.
''They stuck with us for a majority of the first half, but once we started getting traps and got our offense going, we kind of took that confidence from there,'' Fair said. ''The start of the second half I was most impressed by. That's a good sign.''
The Hawks allowed three opponents to score 100 points last season, a first for the program. Syracuse was the first to do it this season.
Monmouth played the game without head coach King Rice. In his second season, the former standout at Binghamton High School in southern New York was suspended for one game for his actions and comments critical of the officials after a game with Navy.
Assistant Rick Callahan, who was born in Syracuse and started his career as a graduate assistant in 1980 under Orange coach Jim Boeheim, replaced Rice on the bench. After greeting a bunch of friends, Callahan assessed what he had just witnessed.
''That's as deep a Syracuse team as they've had,'' Callahan said. ''They're coming off three of the best years they've ever had. This team is probably deeper and potentially could be better than any one of those three teams.''