SAN DIEGO – Orange ahoy!
No. 9 Syracuse made a rare non-conference trip out of upstate New York and blew past No. 20 San Diego State 62-49 on the flight deck of the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway on a sunny, windy Sunday afternoon.
C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Michael Carter-Williams also scored 17.
Although there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the conditions were far from ideal. The wind blowing off the Pacific Ocean made it tough for both teams, and it was the taller, bulkier Orange (1-0) that adjusted the best.
"This was a tough day," Syracuse 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."
The Orange (1-0) effectively put it away when Fair made a jumper for a 17-4 lead with 11:30 to go in the first half. He had nine points at that point.
SDSU (0-1) had a miserable day, both because of the wind and the Orange's 2-3 zone. Sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas, one of two 6-foot-9 starters, had five of Syracuse's 10 blocked shots.
The Aztecs went 17 for 63 (27 percent) from the field, including only 1 for 18 (5.6 percent) from 3-point range. From the line, SDSU made just 14 of 33 (42.4 percent).
"They started driving our zone, just like we started driving their man-to-man," Boeheim said. "When they got there, we're bigger, so we could make them have a tough shot. That was the whole key to the game."
"It's just like when you play outdoors in the summer," Boeheim said. "You've got to get to the basket. That's why kids from the city don't shoot jump shots."
In last year's Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson across San Diego Bay from the Midway, Michigan State made just 2 of 20 3-pointers in a 67-55 loss to North Carolina.
Syracuse was 25 of 56 (44.6 percent) from the floor. It took only four 3-pointers, making one, and took 19 free throws, making 11 for 57.9 percent.
"I hesitated on a lot of shots I would normally shoot," said Syracuse's Brandon Triche, who scored 15 points. "We pretty much didn't shoot any jump shots."
Said SDSU coach Steve Fisher: "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. They gave us fits with 10 blocked shots and at least that many that they altered."
Of the three games on ships this year, this was the only one that was completed. On Friday night, the Marquette-Ohio State game on the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., was canceled and the Georgetown-Florida game on the USS Bataan in Jacksonville was called off at halftime, both because of condensation on the court.
This game was postponed from Friday night due to the threat of rain.
Of the four games on ships since last year's Carrier Classic, the only two that were completed were on San Diego Bay.
It wasn't without some glitches.
The wood court bubbled near one basket, forcing workers to sand, seal and dry the area before the game. The shot clock above that basket didn't work and the score and official time had to be kept at the scorer's table because the scoreboards didn't always work correctly.
Because the horn didn't work, the stats crew had to use a hand-held airhorn to signal for TV timeouts. When the gas in the airhorn canister ran out, they had to yell at the refs to notify them of TV timeouts and substitutions.
Jamaal Franklin led SDSU with 11 points. SDSU's only lead was 2-0 on Xavier Thames' runner in the lane Fair then made two free throws and a baseline jumper and hulking freshman DaJuan Coleman had a tip-in for his only points as the Orange took control.
Syracuse's biggest lead was 54-37 with 4:35 left.
The wind "affected us a little bit," SDSU's JJ O'Brien said. "But the conditions were the same for both teams. It's not an excuse for why we missed free throws and missed shots."