SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Billy Edelin is back, and No. 3 Syracuse is on cloud nine.
Hakim Warrick and Josh Pace combined for 32 points and 21 rebounds Wednesday night in Syracuse’s 91-67 victory over St. Bonaventure. Edelin, in his first appearance at point guard for the Orange since last February, scored four points and assisted on three baskets in 15 minutes as coach Jim Boeheim welcomed back a key member of the 2003 national championship team.
“It felt good to hear the fans,” said Edelin, who entered the game at 8:44 of the first half to a deafening ovation. “It made my job a lot easier when they stood up. It felt good to hear some positive things after all the crazy rumors.”
Last season, Edelin started the first 16 games, averaging 13.8 points and a team-high 5.4 assists before suddenly leaving the team for “personal issues.” He played in a loss at Providence on Feb. 7, but just when it seemed he had put his problems behind him he failed to show up for Syracuse’s home game against Rutgers three days later. He did not practice or play the remainder of the season.
Edelin was declared ineligible by the NCAA for the current semester because he did not meet academic eligibility requirements, but since he is taking a course load that would allow him to meet those requirements the NCAA granted Edelin an academic waiver petition last month, making him immediately eligible to play.
He returned to practice four days before Thanksgiving and Boeheim finally gave him the signal during the national anthem Wednesday night to be ready.
“He’s been away such a long time, it will take time to get his timing back,” Boeheim said. “He understands the game, and I think he needs a few games to get himself back.”
Edelin’s prettiest play was a no-look pass to Louis McCroskey for an easy layup midway through the second half.
“It’s good for him to be back so he can get his legs back,” Warrick said. “It’s really going to help him because we are really going to need him later down the road.”
The victory was the 30th straight for Syracuse (6-0) over teams from New York state and sent the Bonnies (0-4) to their 21st straight road loss.
St. Bonaventure had never started a season with four losses in 85 years of basketball, but the school is still recovering from a lost scholarship and NCAA sanctions incurred after accepting a junior-college transfer who was ineligible and played for most of the 2002-03 season.
As part of their punishment, the Bonnies were not allowed to play any exhibition games or closed scrimmages against another team, and with five new players they struggled.
“You never want to be on the other side of the scoreboard, but it was good for our young guys,” head coach Anthony Solomon said. “Individually and collectively, they improved in a lot of ways. Our patience, poise and focus to detail, we really stayed together. That’s important for us. We are where we are right now.”
Gerry McNamara had 17 points and four assists and Darryl Watkins had 12 points for Syracuse.
Wade Dunston led the Bonnies with 17 points, Michael Lee had 16, Patrick Lottin 11 and Ahmad Smith finished with eight points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Syracuse jumped to a big early lead and cruised in a game that seemed more like a scrimmage. The Orange shot 55.2 percent for the game as Boeheim gave his reserves a lot of work.
Pace and Demetris Nichols each had four points to key a 10-2 run that gave the Orange a 12-4 lead four minutes in. A 3-pointer by McNamara from the right wing and a layin by Watkins boosted the lead to 26-12 midway through the period.
The Bonnies finally put together a 10-1 run, moving within 31-22 on a 3-pointer by Lottin with 5:46 left.
Edelin hit a short baseline jumper to send the Orange on a 15-4 spurt and a 46-26 lead at halftime.
A 3-pointer by McCroskey midway through the second half gave the Orange their biggest lead, 65-38.