Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 Big East) is two wins away from matching the school’s best start, established a decade ago.
Marquette (12-4, 1-2) entered the game 1-7 against the top-ranked teams. The Golden Eagles’ lone triumph was 83-69 over Kentucky in the 2003 NCAA tournament, which earned them a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans, where Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to its lone national championship. The Golden Eagles lost 82-77 to Duke in November 2010 in their previous try.
This was a retribution game for Syracuse. Marquette beat the Orange twice last season, 76-70 at home last January and the second time knocking them out of the NCAA tournament.
But after a sterling first half that featured the Orange’s second 19-0 run of the season and resulted in a 37-19 halftime lead, Syracuse nearly self-destructed in the second.
Marquette started the period with a 15-5 charge, forcing six turnovers in the first 6 minutes. Fab Melo drew a goaltending call on Crowder’s layup try with 14:36 left, allowing Marquette to pull within 42-34.
Triche responded with his fourth 3-pointer of the game and Joseph’s one-handed fast-break slam after a turnover by Junior Cadougan boosted the lead back to 49-38 with 12:02 to go as the season-high crowd of 25,412 roared.
Undaunted, the Golden Eagles continued to claw back. Odom hit a layup and Crowder’s reverse follow had them back to 51-44 at 9:50. v Crowder and Odom each drained 3s, Odom’s bringing Marquette to 59-57 with 4:59 left.
After Baye Keita hit two free throws for the Orange, Waiters blocked Odom’s 3 from the top of the key and scored on a breakaway layup. Waiters then fed Joseph for a 3 from the right side and Scoop Jardine’s lob to Melo gave the Orange a 68-60 lead with 2:13 left.
Crowder followed with a 3 from the left corner, but that was Marquette’s last gasp.
In both meetings last season, the Orange contested Marquette’s drives through the paint but still couldn’t stop the scoring as the Golden Eagles went over and through Syracuse’s zone defense.
This zone is much different, and Marquette found out real fast.
The Orange limited Marquette to 6-of-20 shooting in the first half, 1 of 7 from behind the arc, and held the Golden Eagles without a basket for more than 11 minutes while fashioning that 19-0 spurt.
The rush matched one Syracuse fashioned against Tulane and the Orange also had a 23-0 rush in a win at North Carolina State.
Waiters started the surge by splitting the defense and feeding Fair for a baseline jumper to put Syracuse up 18-12 at 11:28.
After Johnson-Odom watched his soaring one-handed dunk attempt ricochet harmlessly away from the basket, Melo drew two charges and Jardine fed Joseph for a 3-pointer and a 21-12 lead.
Joseph hit again from the top of the key, then fed Triche for another 3 and a 31-12 edge with 3:33 left. Waiters gave Syracuse a 37-19 halftime lead with a layup with 2.3 seconds left as the shot clock expired.
Last season, the Golden Eagles hit critical 3-pointers in the closing minutes and held a big advantage at the free throw line, going a combined 43 of 56 to Syracuse’s 13 of 21. In the first half alone, Melo drew four charges after getting two fouls in the first 2 minutes of play, and both teams took 23 free throws on Saturday. Marquette finished 6 of 26 (23.1 percent) from behind the arc
The Golden Eagles were coming off a 73-70 loss at Georgetown on Wednesday night after squandering a 17-point second-half lead.