BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Eric Devendorf is worried Syracuse might one day dig itself a hole too big to overcome.
It hasn’t happened yet, but the Orange guard wasn’t too pleased after helping Syracuse rally from a 15-point first-half deficit to pull out an 81-71 win over Canisius on Saturday night.
“I hope we learn soon, to tell you the truth. We can’t take these teams for granted,” Devendorf said. “We’ve just have to go out there and, mentally, be ready. And tonight we weren’t.”
Devendorf at least made sure the No. 17 Orange were ready went it mattered. He scored nine consecutive points during a 3-minute span in sparking a game-turning 13-5 second-half run that put Syracuse up 68-59.
Terrence Roberts led the Orange with 20 points, while freshman Paul Harris made good on his homecoming. The native of Niagara Falls scored 12 points and added nine rebounds for the No. 17 Orange, who are off to a 6-0 start for the first time in two years.
Chuck Harris scored 24 for the Golden Griffins (1-3), who eventually wore down against a relentless Orange transition attack.
Besides trailing for the first time at the half this season, the Orange didn’t gain their first lead until Demetris Nichols completed a four-point play with 18 minutes left.
Nichols then hit a 3-point basket from the right corner to put Syracuse ahead 50-49 seven minutes into the second half, a lead the Orange would never relinquish.
It’ll have to be enough for the Golden Griffins to know they at least rattled the Orange.
“We could see it in their face, they were falling back on their heels,” said forward Darnell Wilson, who scored 10 points. “I think they wanted to get out of the gym quickly because we were battling as a team collectively.”
Canisius showed plenty fight for a rebuilding Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference program that’s endured five-straight losing seasons and is in its first year under former Hofstra assistant Tom Parrotta.
“It’s disappointing because we think we had a very good team on the ropes,” Parrotta said. “But we did a lot of good things tonight.”
The 71 were the most points the Orange have allowed this season. And the Golden Griffins didn’t quit in the final minutes, keeping it close after falling behind by as many as 13 points.
Led by guard Frank Turner’s 10 rebounds, the Golden Griffins outrebounded the Orange 54-32. The trouble for Canisius was committing 21 turnovers, which led to 23 Syracuse points.
“Give Canisius a lot of credit, they played 40 minutes as hard as you can play,” coach Jim Boeheim said.
As for his team’s slow starts?
“We’ll work on it,” Boeheim said. “If we finish good, that’s not a bad thing. But we need to get better early.”
Come-from-behind victories are suddenly becoming the norm for Syracuse.
It was the second time in three games the Orange trailed by as many as 15 after Syracuse rallied to beat Northeastern 81-58 on Nov. 15. Syracuse also struggled in its last outing, a 79-67 win over Charlotte on Wednesday, a game the Orange led only 31-30 at the half.
Syracuse won its 18th straight against Canisius—the Golden Griffins’ last win coming in 1975. And the Orange have now won 44 straight against New York state-based schools.
Playing its first road game of the season, Syracuse opened 5-of-19 from the field, and trailed 23-8 when Pawel Malesa hit his second of three first-half 3-point baskets eight minutes in. Syracuse responded with an 11-3 run, capped by a Roberts’ dunk on a transition break.
“The thing about us is we never come out of the gate and play very well,” Paul Harris said. “We’ve got to start coming right at teams. We can’t take no teams for granted.”
The Orange played their second straight game minus starting center Darryl Watkins, who aggravated a nose injury.