SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Gerry McNamara was counting the days until Syracuse played Seton Hall.
It was worth the wait.
McNamara scored 23 points and the Syracuse defense clamped down on the Pirates’ top scorers, leading the sixth-ranked Orange to a 75-50 victory Saturday night.
McNamara was injured in last year’s game against Seton Hall and struggled through a 2-for-10 shooting night, scoring a season-low six points in a 74-67 loss. Even worse, McNamara pulled a groin muscle, the injury degenerated into a stress fracture of his pelvic bone, and he was never healthy the rest of the year.
On this night, he exacted a measure of revenge early, going 4-for-6 and scoring 13 points in the first half as Syracuse methodically took charge.
“Playing down there was tough last year. I’ve been waiting a full year to play these guys again,” said McNamara, who finished 7-for-11 and hit four 3-pointers. “We really got embarrassed down there. It wasn’t a good game for me.”
This one was. McNamara, who hit five 3-pointers in a 79-65 win over St. John’s on Wednesday, seems to have settled into a nice pattern after some up-and-down play in the nonconference portion of the schedule.
“I thought I had really good shots tonight,” said McNamara, whose steal and feed to Billy Edelin for a fast-break layup late in the first half left both smiling and the Carrier Dome crowd roaring. “I actually thought I could have put a lot more on the board. Every shot I took was a good look.
“I thought I did a good job coming off screens. I thought I took as good a looks as I’ve had this year, and that’s why they went down. I was in rhythm.”
Syracuse (15-1, 2-0 Big East) improved to 11-0 at home and 20-3 all-time against Seton Hall (8-5, 0-2) in the Carrier Dome.
Hakim Warrick had 14 points and nine rebounds and Craig Forth scored 10 points for the Orange, who held the Pirates to 35.8 percent shooting.
Kelly Whitney, the team’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game and usually a tough matchup for Syracuse—he scored 21 points in last year’s game—played only 23 minutes and finished with 10 points and Donald Copeland had nine.
Andre Sweet had eight points and John Allen seven, all in the first half, and freshman point guard Justin Cerasoli went 0-for-8 and finished with one point. J.R. Morris, averaging 11 points, was 0-for-6 and did not score.
The Pirates, coming off a tough one-point loss at home to Notre Dame, had trouble penetrating the Syracuse zone and had more trouble hitting from outside, going 4-for-17 from 3-point range.
“Our defense was good, and they were trying to get it to Whitney,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Even when we had the lead, we were active. We did a good job on defense.”
Seton Hall started poorly, committing six turnovers and managing only one shot in its first seven possessions. And yet when Jamar Nutter hit a 3-pointer from the right wing just over three minutes later, the Pirates trailed only 10-7.
“We really wasted a good defensive effort early,” said Seton Hall coach Louis Orr, a former star for Syracuse under Boeheim. “You’ve gotta play, go out there and compete. I thought we didn’t play with enough courage. This is a tough place to play. When you don’t make shots and turn the ball over, it’s tough. We’ve got a lot of maturing to do.”
McNamara hit a reverse layup off a nice feed from the top of the key from Terrence Roberts and Warrick scored seven straight points, his 3 from the top of the key making it 30-19 with 3:58 left in the first half.
Whitney watched most of it after picking up two early fouls.
“We had a rough start,” Whitney said afterward in a silent locker room. “I only played eight minutes in the first half. They packed it in on me because they know I get a lot of buckets inside, but we got to make outside shots, too, to ease it up for me.”
Syracuse led 36-22 at the break and McNamara continued his hot shooting in the second. He drained a 3 from the left corner and hit another from the top of the key off a screen by Forth to make it 42-24 at 16:24.
Whitney hit a mid-range jumper at 15:03 for Seton Hall’s first basket of the half, but McNamara fed Forth for a two-hand slam dunk and hit two free throws after a steal to give Syracuse a 48-26 edge with 13:27 left.