It was another completive battle for No. 5 Syracuse - but it stayed unbeaten.
The Orange faced Iona Saturday evening at the Carrier Dome, in front of a subdued crowd of 18,145. SU never trailed in the contest and carried a double-digit lead most of the second half, but it still had to fend off a late rally and make a few clutch free throws on the path to a 83-77 victory over the Gaels.
SU had conquered all its opponents this season in the paint, and against the Gaels it was the same story. The Orange surgically dissected Iona with a 52-26 rebounding margin and also doubled up the Gaels 26-13 in fast-break points. SU's bench delivered a stalwart performance, too, outscoring Iona by a 27-7 margin.
Head-to-head, SU is 4-0 over Iona, who made the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. The Gaels returned all their starters from last year including Mike Glover who averages 22.1 points per game.
SU countered with its best shooting percentage of the season - 59.3 percent (32 for 54) from the floor. And the defense played well, with the exception of holding Glover and Kyle Smith in check from scoring. Iona helped did not shoot well overall as they went 11-for-37 (29.7 percent).
Maligned for a lack of a strong offense, SU this time around featured a terrific balanced attack. Nine players scored, four of them in double digits.
Kris Joseph found the rhythm, leading all scorers with 21 points on eight-for-11 shooting. Brandon Triche continued to improve, earning 14 points while dishing out seven assists.
Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters accounted for a combined 33 points. Jardine played a critical role down the stretch, driving to the basket and hitting free throws that put the game out of reach.
Sophomore forward James Sutherland scored seven points and rookie forward C.J. Fair logged in a productive 14 minutes, energizing the offense with six points and four rebounds, However, after spraining his ankle Fair had a hard time walking and did not return for the remainder of the game.