Syracuse, NY – C.J. Fair scored 22 points and Jerami Grant added a career-high 13 in the absence of James Southerland, as seventh-ranked Syracuse claimed a 72-61 victory over Villanova at the Carrier Dome.
Southerland, Syracuse's second-leading scorer and leading 3-point shooter despite coming off the bench, was held out of the contest because of an eligibility issue. Details were not provided and it was uncertain when the problem would be resolved.
Grant, though, provided some extra offense, especially with Brandon Triche on the bench for much of the second half in foul trouble. Triche and Michael Carter-Williams each finished with 10 points for Syracuse (16-1, 4-0 Big East), which has won six straight since its lone loss of the season against Temple in December. The Orange also extended the nation's longest home winning streak to 34 games.
"Of all our wins in the last couple years, this was the grittiest, toughest performance I think we've had," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Everybody just dug in there defensively. We couldn't get anything going offensively, which we haven't been able to the last couple games. We just kept battling away."
JayVaughn Pinkston led Villanova with 12 points and Mouphtaou Yarou contributed 11 with 14 rebounds in defeat. The Wildcats (11-5, 2-1) had won seven in a row entering the contest and lost to Syracuse for the third straight time.
The Orange struggled early without Southerland and trailed 29-27 at the break. Fair, though, began to heat up and gave Syracuse a spark.
Fair's triple gave the Orange a 32-31 edge and he put Syracuse ahead for good a few moments later with a jumper for a 36-34 advantage. Another bucket and two free throws capped a personal 6-0 Fair run and lifted the Orange to a 40-34 lead with 13:46 to play.
A three by Achraf Yacoubou pulled Villanova within 44-43, but the Orange answered with a 17-4 run to open some breathing room.
Dunks by Dajuan Coleman and Rakeem Christmas helped account for the first seven points of the burst for a 51-43 lead before the Wildcats countered with the next four to stay within striking distance. The Orange then scored 10 straight, capped by consecutive threes from Trevor Cooney, to make it 61-47 with just under six minutes remaining. They were Cooney's only two baskets.
Villanova didn't wilt and a three by James Bell with two minutes left made it 64-58, but Grant -- a 36 percent free-throw shooter entering the game -- hit two from the stripe and Fair added one with 65 seconds left to extend the Syracuse margin to nine.
The Wildcats were unable to threaten again and the Orange sealed it at the line. Syracuse finished 24-of-30 from the stripe, including 18-of-22 in the second half, after a 17-for-18 performance in Wednesday's win at Providence.
Syracuse missed its first seven shots Saturday before Coleman converted a layup 4 1/2 minutes into the contest, but Villanova was just as bad early. By the midway point of the first half, it was just 8-8 and the teams combined for only five field goals in 31 attempts.
Villanova opened a 14-9 lead before Syracuse countered with a 10-2 run for a 19-16 edge. It stayed close for the remainder of the half and the Wildcats carried a two-point advantage to the break.
Fair added five rebounds and four blocks, while Carter-Williams chipped in seven assists and three steals ... Syracuse shot 54.5 percent in the second half after a 30.3 percent effort in the first half ... Villanova made only 31 percent in the first half and 32 percent in the closing 20 minutes ... The Wildcats also committed 16 turnovers ... Syracuse will have a week off before visiting Louisville next Saturday ... The Orange will visit Philadelphia for a second matchup with Villanova in two weeks ... Saturday's attendance of 27,586 was the largest at the Carrier Dome this season.