JOHN KEKIS,AP Sports Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — His team is unbeaten and ranked fourth in the nation and has won 48 straight nonconference games and 26 straight at home in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome.
Just don’t tell Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim his Orange is ready for the challenges of the rugged Big East.
“We’re trying to get ready for conference play,” Boeheim said Monday night after Syracuse beat Eastern Michigan 84-48 in a sloppy game. “We’ll have some tough games, more than enough to get you ready.
“To just assume we’re going to win games is the most arrogant thing I have ever seen in my life,” Boeheim said. “I don’t like arrogance and I don’t like arrogant people. To just think it’s going to happen, it doesn’t work that way.”
On this night it did for the Orange (6-0) despite 18 turnovers as Michael Carter-Williams had 11 points and 11 assists to lead five players in double figures, two of them freshmen and another a redshirt freshman.
Carter-Williams, who leads the nation in assists at 9.2 per game, had an erratic first half and finished with six of Syracuse’s 18 turnovers against EMU’s 2-3 zone.
“We didn’t come out ready,” Carter-Williams said. “I made some bad passes, some bad decisions, but that’s going to happen.”
Freshman Jerami Grant had a season-high 11 points and two blocks, freshman Dajuan Coleman had a season-high 14 points, and Brandon Triche finished with 12 for Syracuse. James Southerland, who had a career-high 35 points and matched a school record with nine 3-pointers in Friday night’s win at Arkansas, finished with four points, missing all five shots he attempted from behind the arc, while C.J. Fair finished with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Trevor Cooney, mired in an awful slump — he was 0 for 11 in the three previous games from 3-point range — missed his first five from beyond the arc against the Eagles before finally making one with 8:09 left. That jump-started his game and he finished with a season-high 11 points.
“When I was able to get that first one to go, if you’re able to get shots to go in, that’s big,” said Cooney, who sat out last season. “Once I was able to get that first one out of the way, it took a relief off my back.
“It would be easy to say that it (the slump) hasn’t affected me, but if you let it really get to you, then you’re really going to be done … you can’t play a sport like this. You’ve just got to stay positive about yourself and believe the next one’s going to fall.”
Eastern Michigan (5-2) and the Orange had met just twice before, the last time also an 84-48 Syracuse victory a year ago in the Carrier Dome.
EMU coach Rob Murphy spent seven seasons as an assistant coach under Boeheim before taking the job with the Eagles two years ago. His Eagles had 24 turnovers — 17 in the first half — and were outscored 31-9 on the miscues, victims of the Orange press.
“We were concerned with that coming in. We just didn’t handle it well,” Murphy said. “We worked on it, but until you get in the situation and you’re in this place and you see those long, active hands, you just can’t prepare for it. I don’t think we should have turned it over that much — 17 turnovers in the first half, that was enough for a complete game, and that’s where the game was lost.”
Derek Thompson led Eastern Michigan with 18 points and Glenn Bryant had 16. Da’Shonte Riley, a 7-foot center who transferred from Syracuse to EMU after spending two seasons with the Orange, finished with three points on 1-of-8 shooting but collected six blocks, one off his career high.
“There’s obviously different levels of college basketball, and we kind of exposed some of that tonight,” Riley said. “We’ve just got to play a lot tougher, a lot stronger, a lot smarter, and I think it’ll be all right.”
Defensively, the Eagles were holding opponents to 36.3 percent shooting, tied for 27th in the country, and the Orange had trouble coping at the outset.
Syracuse missed 10 of its first 12 shots, including three lobs, and committed five turnovers in the opening minutes. Fortunately for the Orange, the Eagles weren’t much better, going 4 of 11 and losing the ball five times.
But after Bryant hit two free throws to give Eastern Michigan a 10-3 lead at 14:59, the Orange responded with a 13-2 spurt to gain its first lead and begin to take control.
Fair scored two straight baskets to start the rally and Southerland finished it with a one-handed baseline runner and a pullup jumper from the wing.
Thompson’s layup at 7:04 was Eastern Michigan’s final basket of the first half as Syracuse closed the period with a 19-3 run that erased any thoughts of an upset.
The Eagles were 6 of 22 (27.3 percent) shooting in the first half, missing all six 3-pointers they attempted, and finished 18 of 61 (29.5 percent) and 4 of 19 (21.1 percent) on 3-pointers.
Syracuse hit 9 of its final 19 shots in the first half to take a 35-17 halftime lead despite 1-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc. The Orange shot 19 of 37 (51.4 percent) in the second half.
A 3-pointer from the top of the key by Thompson cut the imposing lead to 37-20 in the first minute of the second half. That was the closest the Eagles came the rest of the game.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)