SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- An early game and the expected hangover from another signature win couldn't derail Syracuse (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP).
Syracuse (10-0) was coming off an 85-73 victory over Florida (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP), the Orange's second win this season over a Top 10 team, and it took them a while to assert control over St. Francis (3-6).
"We didn't have the energy, we didn't have the focus that we had the past couple of games," senior guard Andy Rautins said. "We did win by a fairly big margin, but I would have rather started this game on the right foot, put them away early."
Unlike Syracuse's previous two opponents in the Carrier Dome, the Terriers stayed close in the opening half as coach Jim Boeheim rotated nine players.
St. Francis, averaging 14.7 turnovers a game, committed only three in the half, held Syracuse to one fast-break basket, and hit six 3-pointers to trail 38-26 at halftime. In its previous two home games, Syracuse led Colgate 47-16 and Maine 60-12 at halftime.
"We knew coming in that they're the best transition team in the country, probably," St. Francis coach Brian Nash said. "We knew we had to take care of the basketball. We even had a couple of shots go in and out in the first half. If those shots go in, we play about as good a half as we can play."
After Ricky Cadell hit a 3 from right wing to pull St. Francis within 19-18 at 9:49, the Orange went repeatedly inside to Onuaku, who made five baskets from in close in a 5-minute span. Brandon Triche's baseline jumper and Onuaku's lay-in gave Syracuse a 31-21 lead with 4:21 left.
"In a game like this, when they try to slow it down, you gotta run your half-court offense," said Onuaku, who finished with 14 points. "We're a talented team. We're long and athletic in the zone, and we stop a lot of teams like that."
Akeem Bennett's 3 from the right wing narrowed the margin to 31-24 at 3:39, but Syracuse quickly rebuilt its double-digit lead.
Syracuse then scored the first eight points of the second half and didn't allow a field goal by St. Francis for the first 6 1/2 minutes of the period to eliminate any doubt about the outcome.
"The second half execution-wise, the first seven or eight possessions were all zero possessions," Nash said. "They come down and scored, and there you go. They got up and got aggressive on us, took our shooters away a little bit. We could have got the ball to the high post and made some plays where we did in the first half, but you've got to credit them. They make adjustments in their zone."
Johnson set up Rick Jackson's reverse layup and then swished the only two 3-pointers he attempted in the game, the second giving the Orange a 46-26 lead with 17:17 left.
"It's tough. That [Florida] game was a high-energy type of game," Johnson said after his 12-point, nine-rebound, four-block performance. "You could see how sluggish we were."
From there, the Syracuse defense clamped down. The Terriers had two baskets in the first 11 1/2 minutes of the half -- Bennett's 3 at 14:28 and a follow by Herman Wrice 5 minutes later.
Bennett led St. Francis with 15 points, Wrice had 12 and Cadell added 11, all in the first half. Cadell, the Terriers' leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, hurt an ankle midway through the second half and never attempted a shot in the period after going 4 of 9 in the first.
St. Francis shot 26.7 percent (8 of 30) and committed 14 turnovers in the second half.
"We were playing, but we weren't playing our best," said Jackson, who set the tone early against the smaller Terriers by scoring nine of his 11 points in the first 6 1/2 minutes. "It's an early game and they came out and jumped on us.
"You can't let teams like that hang around. You just give them too much confidence when you do that."
Syracuse finished with 10 blocks, 13 steals and 24 assists on 29 field goals.
"We regrouped, came out and played our hearts out," Jackson said.
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