It indeed was a good day where things fell into place for the unbeaten Orange (10-0). In the midst of a federal investigation, Syracuse is poised to move to No. 1 in the national rankings, after top-ranked Kentucky lost to Indiana, 73-72, and No. 2 Ohio State lost to No. 13 Kansas, 78-67.
Kris Joseph had nine points and eight rebounds, and Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Fab Melo, and C.J. Fair each scored eight for the Orange. Freshman guard Michael Carter-Williams had five points and a season-high eight assists.
It was the fourth game for Syracuse since associate head coach Bernie Fine was fired after allegations by three men that he sexually molested them as minors. Two of the three men were former Orange ballboys. Fine has maintained his innocence and no charges have been filed. The investigation is expected to last several more weeks.
“If we lose a game, it’s not going to be because they’re distracted,” coach Jim Boeheim said after Fine was fired Nov. 27. “They have to be focused.”
So far, the Orange have been just that.
Having displayed great anticipation on defense, Syracuse entered the game ranked first in the nation in steals, averaging 12.5 a game, and second in turnover margin at plus-8.2, trailing only Ohio State. The Colonials found out why at the outset as they struggled to find any openings. Syracuse forced 18 turnovers that led to 34 points and held George Washington to 3 of 18 shooting from beyond the arc.
George Washington hit just 1 of its first 16 shots — a runner by Bryan Bynes 3 minutes into the game. By the time Pellom converted a layup 3 minutes later, Syracuse was up 13-4, led by six points from Jardine.
George Washington, shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc this season, was 2 of 9 in the first half as the Orange challenged every shooter, registering five blocks and six steals. Having to peer over the likes of the 7-foot Melo, Nemanja Mikic missed his first five shots and finished with six points on 2 of 11 shooting.
Tony Taylor, who was shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, missed all four shots he took from long range and finished with five points. He was averaging 14.
Trailing 37-21 after Melo followed his own miss with 5 minutes to go in the first half, the frustration showed when Pellom threw a pass from under the basket right to Jardine near the foul line, and he scored on a breakaway layup.
Waiters made the free throw to complete a three-point play for a 26-12 lead midway through the half, and Michael Carter-Williams‘ lob to Waiters in the final minute sent the Orange into the locker room with a commanding 45-25 lead.
George Washington shot 27.8 percent (10 of 36) while the Orange were 18 of 35 (51.3 percent).
When Syracuse built the lead to 31 late in the second half, the student section began chanting “We’re No. 1.”