A seemingly innocuous victory over Canisius four years ago has turned into a staggering winning streak for Syracuse.
The fourth-ranked Orange look to extend their winning streak over non-conference opponents to 51 games Saturday night against a Golden Griffins team that hasn't won at Syracuse in nearly 45 years.
The Orange (8-0) last dropped a regular-season game to a team outside the Big East on Dec. 15, 2008, losing 72-69 to Cleveland State. They bounced back two days later with an 82-60 win over Canisius (6-1).
That started a stretch of 50 consecutive wins over non-conference teams in the regular season, during which the Orange have outscored opponents by an average of 22.3 points. The run includes another victory over the Golden Griffins, 86-67 on Nov. 14, 2010.
The streak wasn't in much jeopardy last Saturday, when the Orange coasted to a 108-56 win over Monmouth. That marked their 28th consecutive home victory, the longest active streak in the nation.
Facing Canisius should keep them rolling. Syracuse has won 20 straight in the series since an 80-76 loss in 1975. It is also 10-0 against the Golden Griffins at the Carrier Dome, and hasn't lost to them at home since 1968.
Those streaks may keep going with another dazzling effort from Michael Carter-Williams, the nation's leader with 10.4 assists per game.
Against the Hawks, the sophomore guard had 15 points and 16 assists, the most for Syracuse since Sherman Douglas tied an NCAA record with 22 in January 1989.
"He's been making those passes," Jim Boeheim said. "He could have had 16, two or three times, but we didn't make them."
Carter-Williams credits his emergence to being used sparingly off the bench last season. He's already 21 minutes shy of the 269 he totaled in 2011-12.
"It kept me patient," he said. "It taught me that I still have a lot of work to do. I was looking forward to so much this year and I wanted to be prepared. I think it's all showing now."
Freshman guard Trevor Cooney is proving to be strong from beyond the arc, making 10 of 22 attempts while averaging 12.3 points over the past three games. He hit 5 of 9 3s and finished with a season-high 15 points last Saturday.
Canisius, which is off to its best start since 1973-74, is thriving from behind the arc over the last two games, connecting on 26 of 52 shots. It set a team record with 17 3-pointers in Sunday's 94-82 victory at Marist to surpass last season's win total.
"I've always been a big believer in the 3-point shot and we got on a bit of a roll (Sunday)," first-year coach Jim Baron said.
Harold Washington has been key, leading Canisius with 18.6 points per game, while hitting 18 of 32 from long range. He hit 6 of 11 3s en route to a season-high 25 points Sunday.
Fellow guard Billy Baron is averaging 17.7 points, and came two rebounds shy of his first career triple-double against the Red Foxes. The junior finished with 16 points and 11 assists.
Boeheim is two victories shy of joining Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as the only coaches to reach 900 in Division I history.
If Syracuse's dominance holds against Canisius, he'll get his first crack at joining that elite group Monday versus Detroit.