SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- No James Southerland, no problem for Syracuse.
Even with Southerland, the Orange's top reserve, benched indefinitely because of an apparent academic issue, No. 7 Syracuse downed Villanova, 72-61, on Saturday in a Big East Conference game before 27,586 fans at the Carrier Dome -- the largest on-campus college crowd of the season.
Junior forward C.J. Fair scored 11 of Syracuse's first 13 points in the second half as the Orange built a 40-34 lead and never trailed again.
Syracuse freshmen Jerami Grant (a career-high 13 points), Trevor Cooney (6) and DaJuan Coleman (6) combined for 25 points, about 11 above their season average, to pick up the slack in Southerland's absence.
"It was really the three freshmen who won this game," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Obviously, C.J. was huge and Michael (Carter-Williams) played the way he can play, but the three freshmen really made the difference in the game."
Fair led both teams with 22 points. JayVaughn Pinkston had 12 points to lead the Wildcats, while Mouphtaou Yarou had 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Southerland, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, ranks third on the team in scoring (13.0) and second in rebounding (6.3). He is a leading candidate for the national Sixth Man of the Year award.
Syracuse officials released the following statement about Southerland:
"Due to an eligibility matter, Senior James Southerland will not participate in competition until further notice. Given University policy and federal student privacy laws, we are unable to provide any further details at this time."
Said Boeheim: "The statement's out. I can't say anything more. We've got to play the guys who can play; that's all we can do."
Southerland watched the game in street clothes from the end of the bench, a spot usually reserved for the team's walk-ons.
"Losing James it's a big blow to the team," Fair said. "Nobody expected this. We just got to find another way to make up for his production out there."
The Orange has won 34 consecutive games at the Carrier Dome, including 12 this season, and owns the nation's longest homecourt winning streak.
Syracuse's last home loss came on Feb. 9, 2011, against Georgetown.
Over the years, Villanova has been the most successful opponent at the Dome. The Wildcats had won three of their last four games in Syracuse, and even with the loss they've won 13 of their 28 Dome games.
With its sixth consecutive victory, the Orange improved to 16-1 and 4-0 in the Big East. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Wildcats, who dropped to 11-5 and 2-1 in the conference.
Both teams got off to a sluggish start. They combined to make only one of their first 14 shots, and that was on a goaltending call.
While Syracuse made only three of its first 18 shots, the Wildcats went on a 6-0 run to build their biggest lead of the game, 14-9.
The Orange countered with a 10-2 spurt to take a 19-16 lead, but the Wildcats finished the half with a 10-5 run to grab a 29-27 lead.
Fair's outburst to start the second half enabled the Orange to build a 40-34 lead, and the Wildcats never recovered as they shot 32 percent from the field (8-for-25) in the second half.
"Fair got it going in the half; he was great," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "He was just great. That's usually the game. You get someone like that who gets going and you can't stop him and you can't make shots."
Syracuse built a 61-47 cushion with a 17-4 second-half run that featured a monster dunk by Rakeem Christmas, a nifty drive by Fair, and redshirt freshman Cooney's back-to-back three-pointers.
"We couldn't come back after they jumped on us (in the second half)," Yarou said. "Tomorrow we're going to go back to practice and get better. That's all I have to say."
NOTES: The victory was the 906th of coach Jim Boeheim's career, which ranks second on the all-time Division I list to the 942 compiled by Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. ... In the all-time series, Syracuse leads Villanova, 38-31. ... Syracuse's Carter Williams, who entered the game leading the nation with 9.8 assists per game and ranked fifth in steals with 3.1 per game, recorded seven assists (with three turnovers) and three steals. ... Villanova's Dylan Ennis, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Rice, is the older brother of Syracuse recruit Tyler Ennis, who is a senior at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J.