1:00 PM ET, December 28, 2003
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is giving his four freshmen as much game experience as possible, but is relying on his veterans when it counts.Hakim Warrick scored 18 points and Billy Edelin had 11 points and a career-high 11 assists Sunday to lead Syracuse (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP) to an 81-63 victory over North Carolina-Asheville.Employing a stiff man-to-man defense at the outset, Syracuse used steals by Edelin and Josh Pace and a pair of 3-pointers by Gerry McNamara to gain a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes.That allowed Boeheim to substitute freely, rotating 11 players, and the Orangemen (7-1) never allowed their lead to dip below double digits after freshman guard Louie McCroskey's driving layup put them up 27-16 at 6:26."We've gotten through these first eight games, and everybody's gotten an opportunity to play a little bit," Boeheim said. "I think our veteran guys know what has to be done and are playing at a pretty good level right now. Our young guys will help us in different spots as we go on."McNamara hit five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points and Pace had 10 points and seven rebounds for Syracuse."The freshmen are starting to break through and are cutting down on the mistakes we had been making earlier this season," said Watkins, who had a season-high eight points and four blocks.It was the seventh straight win for the Orangemen and the sixth loss in seven games for North Carolina-Asheville (2-8). Still, just playing the defending national champions was a valuable lesson for the young Bulldogs, whose 14-man roster includes eight freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors and no seniors.Sophomore center Joseph Barber topped North Carolina-Asheville with 17 points and 10 rebounds."Our young guys were a little bit in awe, and they (Syracuse) got a little more physical than I think they planned," Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "We had no smarts on the break and no smarts in taking it to the hole, but it's something we'll learn from. Having guys like Warrick defending us will be a good learning point for us."The Orangemen limited the Bulldogs to 21 percent shooting in the first half and led 38-21 at halftime. But two straight misses by McCroskey, the second on a 4-on-1 Syracuse break, helped the Bulldogs go on an 8-0 run midway through the second half.A 3-pointer and layup by Bryan McCullough, who finished with nine points, and a layup high off the glass by Oliver Holmes moved the Bulldogs within 62-51 with 6:28 to play and threatened to make the ending interesting.Then Boeheim put his starters back in, McNamara hit a quick 3, and Syracuse built its biggest lead, 79-57, on another 3 by McNamara with 2:33 left."We need to continue to get the young guys ready to help us, but the veteran guys have played at a pretty high level from the beginning," Boeheim said. "It's difficult when we have three or four young guys on the court at the same time. It's kind of a good experience for them in a way, but they won't really be out there that much, if at all, the rest of the year."