ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)—Gerry McNamara did it all for No. 4 Syracuse, scoring 29 points and making the first dunk of his college career. And he even managed to survive a couple of headlong dives, one of which left him sprawled in the Siena band.
Hakim Warrick and Josh Pace each added 13 points Saturday to lead the Orange to a 78-56 victory over Siena. Syracuse took an 18-2 lead in the first five minutes and led comfortably the rest of the way.
McNamara, Syracuse’s best outside shooter, paced the early surge with a layup and a dunk after a steal and court-long dash. He then completed a four-point play after hitting his 200th career 3-pointer.
The scrappy Saints, who had 12 steals, regrouped and rallied back to 23-14 on a 3-pointer from the left wing by Tay Fisher, who finished with 12 points. But every time Siena seemed on the verge of making it a game, McNamara struck back.
“I pride myself in making the ones when I need to. When you jump on a team early and keep them there, it’s not too bad,” said McNamara, who leaped out of bounds for loose balls in the second half, toppling a photographer once and landing in the Siena band the other time.
“We didn’t expect to destroy these guys, not in the least. We knew that they were a good team. Coach said not to underestimate them, they have a couple of losses, but in every loss a little dry spell cost them.”
That dry spell occurred early in this one, but over the final 35 minutes Syracuse outscored Siena by only 60-54.
“It had a funny feeling. It was kind of a close game the whole game,” said Warrick, who also had 15 rebounds and three steals. “If we were up 15 or 17, it never felt like that. It always felt like they were a few shots from tying it or being right back in the game.”
It was the first time Syracuse had played in the building in which it beat Auburn and Oklahoma to earn a berth in the Final Four on the way to winning the 2003 national championship.
“I could live in here,” said McNamara, who was 6-for-14 on 3-pointers. “That’s the way I felt last time. It’s fun to be back.”
The win was the 29th straight for Syracuse (5-0) against in-state foes and sent Siena (0-5) to its worst start. Siena shot 32.3 percent and was outrebounded 54-29.
“We’re disappointed with the loss,” said Michael Haddix, who led Siena with 15 points and five rebounds. “But they’re a great team, and at times we showed we were capable of being right there with them, so we took some good points out of this.”
Fisher’s third 3-pointer of the opening half helped narrow the Syracuse lead to 31-20 with 7:33 left before halftime.
But Warrick converted a one-handed slam dunk, then corralled a miss and tossed it back to McNamara, who drained a 3 from the right wing to boost the lead back to 16. A jumper in the lane by Pace gave the Orange a 44-24 lead.
“We did a good job defensively the whole game,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We didn’t identify Fisher a couple of times, but we did a good job on Haddix. Siena is off to a rough start, but they might win some more games than people might think.”
The Saints, who trailed 46-31 at the break, never were closer than 12 in the second half.