SYRACUSE, N.Y. – For at least a while, Tulane managed to hang tough against No.1 Syracuse. The Green Wave kept the score close for 13 minutes, trading points with the Orange.
But after Kendall Timmons hit a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer to pull Tulane to 22-19 with 6:57 to go before halftime, Kris Joseph hit a big 3-pointer to extend the lead.
Then the Orange hit another. And another.
All told, a 19-0 run highlighted by five 3s from three different players gave Syracuse a commanding 41-19 lead going into halftime. Tulane couldn't make up the damage, eventually falling 80-61 on Thursday night.
"We were executing on the offensive end and defense-wise we gave them a couple of 3s early and they didn't make them," guard Kendall Timmons said. "But one of their bigs came off the bench and started knocking down 3s and it was just like a snowball effect. They started coming from everywhere."
While the Orange hit wide-open shots, the Green Wave struggled to drain its own, shooting 17 of 50 for 34 percent from the field. Timmons, Tulane's leading scorer, finished 4 of 12 for 16 points, seven of which came on free throws.
Guard Ricky Tarrant scored 15 points and was 2 of 5 from the beyond the arc, and guard Jordan Callahan scored 10 points after sinking two of his five 3-point attempts.
Less than a week after shutting down North Carolina State with a 23-0 run, Syracuse nearly matched that dominance against Tulane. Heading into the game, Green Wave head coach Ed Conroy said trying to prevent the Orange from taking off on another tear was a point of emphasis.
As Conroy and Tulane saw, once Syracuse takes control, it's close to impossible to recover from.
"We talked about the runs that they're able to go on and what causes it," Conroy said. "There were a couple of lapses that made me worry about it. They're so explosive. I thought they showed in that stretch why they're No. 1 in the country."
James Southerland and Brandon Triche each hit a pair of 3-pointers to key the decisive surge as the Orange remained unbeaten. It's the third straight season Syracuse has won its first 13 games. The Orange have won three straight since reaching the top spot in the rankings 10 days ago, including victories over North Carolina State and Bucknell.
Tulane (11-2) had faced the No. 1 team in the nation twice before, losing to Cincinnati (72-59) in January 2000 and Memphis (97-71) in February 2008. The Green Wave has never defeated a top-five team and hasn't beaten a top-10 since a 49-47 victory over No. 9 Memphis in February 1983.
Dion Waiters had 15 points, Joseph added 13, and Southerland 10 for the Orange.
Josh Davis, a transfer from North Carolina State who was averaging 12.1 points and 10.2 rebounds for Tulane, missed all nine shots he took and finished with three points and six rebounds.
Tulane stayed tough in the opening minutes despite finding little room inside, playing the Orange to a standstill as they worked the clock in deliberate fashion. A short jumper by Kevin Thomas knotted the score at 14-all midway through the first half, and Timmons' 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer moved the Green Wave within 22-19 with 6:57 left.
That was it for Tulane as the Orange's long-range attack shifted into high gear. The Green Wave missed four straight shots and were called for two shot-clock violations in the closing minutes, while Syracuse hit five straight 3-pointers to gain a 41-19 halftime lead. The Orange finished 10 of 21 from beyond the arc.
It all started after a miss by Triche. Fab Melo tapped the rebound out to Joseph, and he hit a 3 from the left wing.
Joseph then sent Scoop Jardine off on fast-break layup and Triche hit a 3 from the right corner after quick passes around the perimeter by Jardine and Joseph.
After Melo blocked a dunk attempt by Tre Drye, it was Southerland's turn to shine. He hit another 3 from the right wing, drove the lane and fed Baye Keita for a resounding dunk, then hit a 3 from the top of the key.
Jardine ended the spurt by feeding Triche for a 3 from the right corner.
Tulane, called for three shot-clock violations in the first half, shot just 24 percent (6 of 25) and committed nine turnovers in the opening period, while the Orange hit 14 of 25 shots (56 percent), including 7 of 12 from beyond the arc. In the previous two games, Syracuse made 19 of 42 3-point attempts, a 45 percent clip.
In its win over the Wolfpack, Syracuse scored 23 straight points in a first-half spurt that took just 6:47 — about a minute longer than Thursday night's blitz.
Although Tulane entered the game with only one loss — 61-50 at Wofford — and had a victory over Georgia Tech, its non-league schedule has been weak. The Green Wave's slate ranks almost at the bottom among the 344 teams in Division I, and among its victims were Division II New Orleans and Division III MacMurray College.
Conroy has a roster that includes six transfers and seven freshmen, and he felt the team needed lots of practice to improve. That's why two teams that don't even count toward Tulane's Ratings Percentage Index were on the schedule and why the Green Wave has only two games in the last three weeks of December.