Joseph has 17, No. 1 Syracuse beats Bucknell 80-61
By JOHN KEKIS
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Nothing seems to faze No. 1 Syracuse. Not a rowdy road crowd nor a silent one at home.
Three days after beating North Carolina State at a soldout RBC Center in their first true road game of the season, the Orange returned to a quiet Carrier Dome on Tuesday night and methodically beat Bucknell 80-61.
"There's going to be some games you're going to be more excited about than others," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We made some really good plays in the first half. We just made some good decisions to get some people open and knocked down some shots."
The veterans led the way as Kris Joseph had 17 points and Scoop Jardine added 14 as the Orange had 10 steals and seven blocks in a workmanlike performance. Freshman Rakeem Christmas was the only other player in double figures with a season-high 10 points.
"There's going to be games where I might be 1 for 7 but making defensive plays," said Jardine, who had four assists, three steals and only one turnover in 29 minutes. "I might be on the bench cheering. That's the type of team we have.
"Whatever we're doing to win games and making those game-changing plays that's going to make us win games, me and Kris will have to be there."
The Orange (12-0), who retained the No. 1 ranking for the second straight week, won their 30th straight nonconference home game.
It was only the second time Bucknell (7-5) has played the No. 1 team in the nation. The Bison lost to Duke, 84-50, on Jan. 2, 2006.
Bucknell entered the game 1-8 against Syracuse, but that lone win, a 74-69 triumph over the 17th-ranked Orange, came in the Bison's last visit to the Carrier Dome in November 2005.
Thoughts of another upset vanished in a flash.
Christmas scored seven straight points in the opening 3:20, completing his personal spurt with a follow of a miss by Joseph to give the Orange a 9-4 lead.
"When I get involved early, it makes me play harder," said the mild-mannered Christmas, who had two blocks. "Coach wants me to start yelling at people and get more mad."
Syracuse shot 50 percent in the opening half and held the Bison to 8-of-28 shooting (29 percent) in gaining a 39-22 halftime lead.
Mike Muscala, the Patriot League player of the year last season, entered the game with five double-doubles, three more than Syracuse as a team. He was 8 for 8 on free throws and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Ben Brackney had 11 points and Joe Willman 10 for the Bison.
Bucknell entered the game shooting nearly 40 percent from long range and went 2 of 10 in the first half, then hit 5 of 12 in a hot second.
It was too little and much too late.
"I thought our team in the first half came in in awe of them," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said. "We have tremendous respect for Syracuse and their ability and their talent, but we'd like to think that we would not come in in awe. We had some decent looks and couldn't knock them down."
Bucknell shot 60 percent in its previous two games, wins over Binghamton and Richmond, but the Bison found few openings against Syracuse, and when they did they misfired a lot.
Then, after Brackney hit a 3 from the left corner to move Bucknell within 24-13 with 5:39 left, he missed an open layup, Brian Fitzpatrick failed to convert in close, and Willman missed another layup, taking his eyes off the basket as the Orange big men swarmed all around him.
"We missed our shots and it took away some of our defensive intensity, maybe," Fitzpatrick said. "I think if we could do it over, we'd probably come out a little more aggressive on the offensive end. We had our opportunities, we had a bunch of open shots, a bunch of layups. I feel like if we played like I know we're capable of, we could have given them a better game."
In their 79-65 win over Richmond on Saturday night, the Bison trailed 31-27 at halftime before hitting 14 of 20 field goals and 19 of 19 free throws in the second half.
Bucknell again fought gamely in the second against the Orange. Bryson Johnson hit three 3-pointers in a span of just over 4 minutes and Brackney hit another. That did little to dent a lead that ballooned to as many as 23 points as the Orange kept pace.
Syracuse finished with only nine fast-break points but hit 8 of 17 from behind the arc as the long-range game clicked again. The Orange made 11 of 25 in the 88-72 win over the Wolfpack.
"We didn't get any transition baskets as we usually do," Joseph said. "We work hard in practice on our offensive sets. Tonight was just a great showing of what we're capable of. We're disciplined, and if we just show patience a little more, we can run our offensive sets in the half court. We did a good job tonight."
Syracuse shot 52.8 percent (28 of 53) for the game while holding Bucknell to 37.3 percent (22 of 59).
Updated December 20, 2011