Syracuse University's men's basketball team defeated their third nationally ranked opponent on Dec. 10, closing out the game in an impressive fashion to beat then-no. 10 Florida 83-71 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
Not stopping there, the Orange's next opponent was the St. Francis Terriers of the Northeast Conference, which was playing well, having won its last two contests, one of which included a dramatic buzzer shot that beat Colgate.
Although it took longer than expected, SU's strong second-half performance resulted in a knockout blow as it beat St. Francis 75-51.
With that, SU, who moved to no. 5 in the Associated Press following this win, improved to 10-0, the team's best start since 1999.
SU's keys to victory were balanced scoring and tenacious defensive effort. Center Arinze Onuaku who was shut down against Florida, led all scorers, contributing 14 points, gathering three rebounds and two blocks.
Rick Jackson who is becoming an important force on offense, added 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Wesley Johnson broke out of a brief shooting slump, finishing with 11 points and three 3-pointers. Mookie Jones, who had been advised by the players and coaches not to pout, logged in valuable playing time, chipping in with 10 points, his fourth double-digit scoring performance of the season.
Despite being the underdog, St. Francis gave a valiant attempt. Akeem Bennett led all scorers, posting a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals. Senior center Herman Rice scored a season-high 12 points and collected five rebounds.
Head coach Jim Boeheim utilized a full-court press defense to inject some life to his team, while trying to speed up the game in the process. That press literally changed the complexion of the game forcing 14 St. Francis second-half turnovers.
"The press did what it had to do," Johnson said. "You will see it again. I just think we need to go back and work on it. We are not communicating like we should. We'll work on it in practice this whole week."