Four games into the season, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson is not where he wants to be.
"We are 1-3 and we've earned that record, but we have to bounce back from where we are," Henderson said Wednesday night after a 73-53 road loss to No. 6 Syracuse.
Four teams in the top 12 — Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA and Kansas — had already lost and unranked Georgetown took top-ranked Indiana to overtime on Tuesday night before the Hoosiers pulled away in the extra period.
Any dreams of adding the Orange (3-0) to that list vanished in a flurry of turnovers. Princeton committed 24 as the long arms of the Orange defenders deflected and intercepted pass after pass. Syracuse finished with 19 steals, just three off the school record.
"The turnovers are a concern of mine, but not to get discouraged," Henderson said. "We've got a real important game for us on Saturday at Lafayette. It's important for us because I think we can be pretty good."
James Southerland scored a career-high 22 points and had five steals and Michael Carter-Williams added 10 points and nine assists to lead the Orange, which won its 24th straight game in the Carrier Dome and boosted its record to 31-0 against the Ivy League in the Dome. Syracuse also has won 35 in a row at home against nonconference foes and six in a row in the series with Princeton.
C.J. Fair had 12 points and Brandon Triche and Rakeem Christmas each had 10 as Christmas matched his career high.
Clay Wilson led Princeton with 15 points, Brandon Connolly had 11, and Ian Hummer had 10.
Princeton, the preseason pick to win the Ivies, fell victim just as Wagner did last weekend in committing 23 turnovers in a loss to Syracuse.
"I thought at times we were OK, but we just had so many turnovers," Henderson said. "They had 19 more shots than we did. We have to be able to take better care of the ball, especially on the road against a good Syracuse team.
"I thought we got pretty good looks from our second team, but the way that they circle behind you, the way that they trap the short corners, it's hard for us to see that. I was hoping we would have a little more toughness with the ball."
Syracuse gained a double-digit lead in the first 10 minutes, but both teams struggled early. After a stretch of nearly 4 minutes without a point being scored, Triche converted a pair of free throws and Southerland swished a 3 from the top of the key to give Syracuse a 20-8 lead with 9:56 left.
Princeton's motion offense found few openings in Syracuse's 2-3 zone as the Tigers committed 14 turnovers in the opening half that the Orange converted into 15 points.
"We just try to take away certain spots, try to take away the middle, the baseline," Carter-Williams said. "We just try to do the best job we can of getting our hands in there. They're a very patient team. They take their time and run the shot clock down and try to catch us laid-back. I think it was good for us."
A nifty pass from Hummer to Connolly for an easy layup off the glass was the kind of play the Tigers thrive on, but Southerland answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 28-14 lead.
"He (Southerland) seemed to make a big shot right when they needed it," Henderson said. "Yeah, he hurt us."
Syracuse stretched its lead to 35-19 on Southerland's high, arcing 3 from the right corner with 2:50 left in the half, but Wilson hit a 3 and T.J. Bray hit another at the buzzer to pull Princeton to 36-25 at the break.
Not bad considering Syracuse had 12 steals and a 14-4 edge in second-chance points and that Hummer, the Tigers' leading scorer at nearly 16 points a game, only attempted three shots.
And the Tigers didn't go away without challenging. Princeton surged to 45-39 on Wilson's 3 off an inbounds pass with 13:42 left.
Unfazed, the Orange responded with an 8-0 spurt to erase any doubt about the final outcome.
Triche set up Christmas for a dunk and followed with a driving layup. Carter-Williams then fed Baye Moussa Keita for another layup and Fair's follow made it 53-39 at 11:05.
Southerland's three-point play boosted the lead to 58-43 with just over 7 minutes remaining.
"I thought we played well at times, but overall we just didn't put together a good 40 minutes," Hummer said. "We haven't done that yet."
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