No. 15 Syracuse 91, Providence 66

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Jim Boeheim breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. With the season winding down, he didn’t need anything hanging over his head.

Hakim Warrick scored a career-high 36 points in his final home game and Boeheim notched his 700th victory when No. 15 Syracuse overwhelmed Providence in the second half for a 91-66 victory Saturday.

“This week has been tough for everybody just to get through,” said Boeheim, the sixth active coach to reach 700 wins and the 18th overall. “When you have to win a couple of games, I think there’s more of a pressure situation than anything, just to get 700 out of the way, not having to keep that going for another week. That was a huge relief for me. It was great to get this all done at once.”

Boeheim, in his 29th year at Syracuse, saluted the Carrier Dome crowd of 32,804 from center court, held up a team jersey with “Boeheim 700” emblazoned on the back, and was presented with a huge banner sporting the autographs of thousands of adoring fans.

“I could have done without that,” Boeheim said. “You have to do that because that’s what people expect. I want the players to get all the credit. I just look at these kinds of things as a distraction. One of my jobs is to keep distractions to a minimum. Anything I can eliminate, that’s what I want to do.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not proud. It’s a private feeling,” he said. “I’ve seen too many people where their focus changes and they don’t do the same things that they always did.”

It was the second straight win for Syracuse (24-5, 11-4 Big East) and the worst loss of the season for tough-luck Providence (12-16, 2-12), which has dropped eight conference games by five points or less.

Gerry McNamara had 14 points and 10 assists for his second career double-double, Terrence Roberts had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Josh Pace finished with 11 points for the Orange, who shot 68 percent (17-for-25) in the second half.

Ryan Gomes had 21 points and four assists, freshman center Randall Hanke had a career-high 17 points and Rob McKiver finished with 11 points for the Friars. Donnie McGrath, who had 15 points in a double-overtime loss to Connecticut two weeks ago and came into the game averaging 10 points a game, played 40 minutes and did not score.

Warrick hit two free throws and hammered home one of his seven dunks in the game to give Syracuse an 18-6 lead less than seven minutes into the game, and Boeheim’s milestone victory seemed a sure thing with the huge crowd roaring.

But Providence began to press and forced the Orange into 10 turnovers to rally back. Hanke scored 10 of his 14 first-half points in just over four minutes, his follow shot bringing the Friars within 22-21 with 8:54 to go.

Syracuse led 40-36 at the break and overcame the Friars’ press with a 14-3 run midway through the second half.

“We didn’t want to give up any easy layups,” said Hanke, who picked up his fourth foul less than three minutes into the second half and went to the bench. “It was a careless mistake on me. I shouldn’t have been as aggressive.”

After Gomes converted a three-point play and hit a jumper in the lane to move Providence within 62-57 with 11:50 to go, Craig Forth hit a follow shot, Warrick made two free throws, and Louie McCroskey slammed home a fast-break dunk to put the Orange up by 11 points.

“It’s a catch-22. You want to play aggressive, but sometimes that can hurt you at the end of games because you lose something with your foot speed,” said Providence coach Tim Welsh, a former assistant under Boeheim. “But give them credit, they had a hop in their step. When you’ve got big-time players that have been champions, they know the setting, the stage, what it meant for the seniors and what it meant for Jim.”

After Gomes drained a 3 from the left corner, McNamara hit two 3-pointers and fed Warrick for a layup to give Syracuse a 76-60 lead with 7:31 left.

“I couldn’t ask for a better ending to my career. It’s just a great way to go out,” said Warrick, who moved ahead of Stephen Thompson into fifth place all-time at Syracuse with 1,958 points. “It was icing on the cake to go out there and be a part of that. That’s something special, something that’s going to go down in history.”

Syracuse outrebounded Providence 41-28, finished with 24 assists, scored 60 points in the paint, and had 30 fast-break points to just six for the Friars.

At halftime, Syracuse retired the No. 19 once worn by Wilmeth Sadat-Singh, who came to Syracuse on a basketball scholarship but went on to become one of the first black quarterbacks in college football.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Providence
R. Gomes R. Gomes
7-15,  21 Pts
6 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Syracuse
H. Warrick H. Warrick
12-17,  36 Pts
6 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists