Wagner-Syracuse Preview

The Associated Press

Being bigger and stronger than most of the teams it faces should be a decided advantage this season for Syracuse.

It certainly was in the season opener and figures to be again Sunday when the Orange play their home opener.

Seeking a 23rd straight victory at the Carrier Dome, No. 8 Syracuse takes to the court for the first time in a week against Wagner.

Not only will this be the first home game for the Orange, it will also be their first indoors after kicking off the season last Sunday with a 62-49 win over San Diego State on the flight deck of the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway in San Diego.

On a sunny, windy afternoon, Syracuse relied on its inside game and took only four 3-pointers. C.J. Fair had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Michael Carter-Williams added a career-high 17 points and five steals in his first collegiate start for the Orange, who shot 44.6 percent (25 for 56) from the field.

"This was a tough day,'' coach Jim Boeheim said. ''This was a hard game. You had to get to the basket. That was the only way you were going to score. You weren't going to make any jump shots.''

Syracuse only had a 45-44 rebounding advantage, but limited San Diego State to 27.0 percent (17 for 63) shooting, including 1 of 18 from 3-point range, and also blocked 10 shots.

''I don't know how good Syracuse is or is going to be. I know one thing - they're not going to get any shorter," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "They gave us fits with 10 blocked shots and at least that many that they altered.''

Sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas had five of those blocks as the anchor of Boeheim's signature 2-3 zone defense.

The Orange also feature freshman DaJuan Coleman at 6-foot-9, 288 pounds and the 6-8 Fair, while even the starting backcourt of Carter-Williams (6-6) and Triche (6-4) has good size.

Syracuse has won 22 straight at the Carrier Dome since losing to Georgetown on Feb. 9, 2011, and is 34-2 in home openers under Boeheim.

All this doesn't bode well for Wagner, which opened its season Wednesday with a 73-69 overtime loss at Delaware State. Senior forward Jonathon Williams led the way with 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting and Kenneth Ortiz - the 2011-12 Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year - had 12 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

The Seahawks return three of their top four scorers from last season's 25-6 team, but use a three-guard starting lineup with four of their five starters 6-6 or shorter. The lone exception is center Naofall Folahan, who is 6-11 but only 215 pounds.

Wagner's Bashir Mason - the youngest coach in Division I at 28 - will be hard pressed to earn his first career win in this contest. Mason was an assistant the last two years under Dan Hurley, who was hired as the new coach at Rhode Island during the offseason.

Syracuse has won both meetings against Wagner, the last matchup resulting in an 85-52 victory at the Carrier Dome on Dec. 19, 1992.

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