SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Syracuse faced its first big test of the season, and the defending national champions aced it.
Josh Pace had a career-high 22 points, Billy Edelin added 22 and Hakim Warrick 21 to lead the 17th-ranked Orangemen to a 96-83 victory over Michigan State on Saturday.
It was the ninth straight victory for Syracuse (9-1) and the fifth loss against a ranked nonconference opponent for the Spartans (5-6), who were ranked No. 3 in the preseason.
Suddenly, those early games against such teams as Colgate, Binghamton and Siena seemed a little more important for the Orangemen.
“I told the guys every game you play from here on in you have to play and play well,” said coach Jim Boeheim, who used his five starters most of the game. “We are playing well together. The guys are looking for each other and have a nice feel for one another. We have our limitations, but most everyone does.”
Not on this day. Syracuse shot 60.3 percent for the game, scoring 50 points in the paint, and committed only eight turnovers in its first appearance of the season on national television.
“It was important for us to play a high-quality team like Michigan State,” said guard Gerry McNamara, who had 18 points. “We were just eager to prove that we’re still a good basketball team. When you go out and play big games, you’re going to play better. Last year, we did that and it looks like we’re going to do it this year, too.”
Paul Davis led the Spartans with 21 points, Chris Hill had 16 points and nine assists, Shannon Brown had a career-high 15 points, and Maurice Ager 14.
It was the most points give up in regulation by the Spartans since losing 99-68 to Indiana on March 10, 1993. And it marked the end of one of the most grueling early-season schedules on record. The Spartans also have lost to Duke, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and UCLA.
“We have to lick our wounds and have nobody to blame for the schedule but me,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I made it and still think it was a good schedule for us. In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think we’d go 0-6, but we did.”
Syracuse used three spurts to score 24 straight points. The Orangemen began the game with a 9-0 run, ended the first half with two baskets in the final 8 seconds, then scored the first 11 points of the second half.
“We wanted to play hard and be aggressive,” said Pace, whose three-point play gave the Orangemen a commanding 55-34 lead with just under 17 minutes remaining. “We know they’re one of the best man-to-man teams in the country. We’ve been working a lot on our man-to-man in preparing for them. We knew they would be tough coming in.”
Still refusing to give in, Michigan State elected to go inside to center Paul Davis against the 2-3 Syracuse zone, and he scored 10 straight points for the Spartans to keep them within reach.
“I thought we attacked the zone pretty well,” Izzo said. “When we were able to get the ball to Davis in the post. I saw some encouraging things.”
When Alan Anderson’s 3-pointer from the left corner moved the Spartans within 78-70 at 5:12, they were poised for one last rush.
It never came.
Warrick, who played the second half with three fouls, scored nine points in the final 5:39 to keep the Orangemen comfortably ahead and atone for an oversight by Izzo. He cut Warrick in a tryout for the Pan American Games last summer.
“It was in the very back of my mind, so you really want to go out there and have a big game,” Warrick said.