SYRACUSE, N.Y. --Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said he was worried about facing a team coached by one of his former assistants and that employs his signature zone defense. Jerami Grant helped ease those nerves in a hurry.
Making his first start of the season and 10th of his career, the sophomore forward scored 11 points in the first 7 minutes as the No. 2 Orange built an early 20-point lead and beat Eastern Michigan 70-48 on Tuesday in the final nonconference game for both teams.
It was a far cry from Saturday, when Syracuse trailed then-No. 8 Villanova 25-7 before rallying for a 78-62 victory.
"We just wanted to come out and be aggressive," said Grant, who started in place of injured Dajuan Coleman and finished with 15 points. "We didn't want to let them get to a big lead like we did against Villanova. We just came out aggressive, but we kind of let up after that."
Syracuse (13-0), one of seven unbeaten teams in Division I, has won 51 straight nonconference games in the Carrier Dome and begins its first season of play in the Atlantic Coast Conference at home against Miami on Saturday.
"We really have come through this first 13 games as well as you could ever hope for," Boeheim said. "We played some really good teams. It's ironic the one game we could have lost was St. Francis. We've put ourselves in the best position we could possibly put ourselves in."
Rakeem Christmas matched his career high with 15 points, C.J. Fair finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, and Trevor Cooney had 10 points for the Orange. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, second nationally in assist to turnover ratio (4.69), matched his season high with nine assists to go with two turnovers and pulled down five rebounds but did not score.
Glenn Bryant led Eastern Michigan (7-5) with 19 points and eight rebounds and Raven Lee had 12 points. Leading scorer Karrington Ward had five points, 10 below his average, on 2-of-10 shooting. Former Syracuse center Da'Shonte Riley, a 7-footer, was a nonfactor, failing to score or snare a rebound in 15 minutes of play.
The Orange put together a 19-4 spurt as the Eagles sputtered mightily, making just 3 of their first 16 shots and committing eight turnovers in the opening 12 minutes.
After Darell Combs hit a 3 to pull Eastern Michigan to 11-6, Cooney started the Syracuse run with a 3 from the left wing and Fair and Grant followed with dunks to give Syracuse an 18-6 lead at 13:28.
Christmas converted a lay-in to complete a pretty passing play under the basket with Ennis and Tyler Roberson and boost the Orange lead to 30-10 at 7:33.
"I knew with Jerami starting it makes them better offensively," Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said. "He was able to get into the high post and create some havoc. When we figured that out, it was a game."
The Orange got sloppy after their spurt, committing five turnovers, Christmas was called for two fouls, and Ennis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 as the Eagles clawed back with a 15-6 surge keyed by two three-point plays from Bryant.
"The first four minutes determined a lot," Bryant said. "We came out kind of sluggish and were down so much. We just talked to each other, said we had to bring more energy, consistency, and we were able to fight and get back into the game."
In the final 80 seconds of the period, Fair and Christmas missed dunks and Grant was called for goaltending. A pair of free throws by Mike Talley with 1.7 seconds left narrowed the Orange's lead to 36-27 at the break.
EMU moved within 36-30 in the first minute of the second half when Talley drained a 3-pointer from the wing, but Christmas responded with a putback, Fair sank two free throws, and Cooney hit his second 3 of the game to give the Orange a 12-point lead less than 4 minutes in.
After Lee's 3-pointer closed the gap to 44-37 at 15:53, Syracuse responded with a 14-2 run to clinch it. Christmas's putback capped it at 7:46 and gave the Orange a 58-39 edge.
Syracuse committed 13 turnovers, finished 3 of 14 from long range, Fair missing all five he attempted, and misfired on 10 of 25 free throws.
"We started to play at a very high level," Boeheim said. "We played at a very low level the rest of the game. It's something to think about. I think we felt we had the game under control and offensively settled a little bit. They made a couple of good offensive plays. We had a really bad stretch at the end of the first half, made some turnovers we don't usually make."
Coleman, who has a contusion in his left leg, watched the game dressed in sweats on the Syracuse bench. He's been receiving treatment for the injury and Boeheim called the injury day-to-day.