SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Vince Council helps make Providence go from the point. Without him, the Friars were no match for top-ranked Syracuse and its stifling press.
After a sluggish start that allowed Providence to stay close, the unbeaten Orange used their press to wear down the undermanned Friars on Saturday night in a 78-55 victory.
Providence committed 16 turnovers in the first half — six in a row at one point — and that spelled doom on a night Syracuse seemed vulnerable after missing its first nine 3-point attempts.
"When they pressed us, a lot of our warts came out — our inability to handle the ball," first-year Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "Their length bothered us. Let's face it: they're the No. 1 team in the country for a reason."
The Friars (12-7, 1-5) were coming off a surprising 90-59 win over No. 14 Louisville, but they played without their junior point guard. Council, the team's leading scorer and playmaker, was suspended for the game.
"From an accountability standpoint, if I'm going to build a program the right way it doesn't matter if you're our leading-minute guy, I want to build a program based on character and integrity," Cooley said. "If you can't be a company guy and do things the right way, it doesn't matter who you are to me. I want to build a team where it's about trusting each other, and if you don't do that, you're not going to play."
The Friars sure could have used Council. He had 15 points and 14 assists against Louisville — the most assists in a league game this season — and has scored 20 or more points five times, averaging 16.4 a game. He had 17 points and five assists in Providence's 87-73 loss to Syracuse 10 days ago, a game that was close until the waning minutes.
"We don't have that much depth, but we do have heart," said Gerard Coleman, who had 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. "We're a young club. We should have taken advantage of that (Syracuse's misses from beyond the arc). This is the Big East, you've got to have memory loss in this. On to the next one.
"They're very deep. Hats off to them. We've just got to come back and be ready for the next time."
Kadeem Batts led Providence with 13 points and LaDontae Henton had 12 on 5-of-16 shooting.
Kris Joseph led Syracuse with 13 points. Dion Waiters had 12 points, seven coming during a decisive first-half run, and Scoop Jardine added 10 points and nine assists for the Orange.
The victory for the Orange (19-0, 6-0 Big East) matches the school record for wins to start a season, set in 1999-2000. Syracuse will try to break the mark Monday night at home against Pittsburgh. The Panthers (11-7, 0-5) are the only winless team in the Big East after a 62-57 loss on Saturday at No. 25 Marquette — their sixth straight setback.
The win also was the 875th for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, moving him within one of Adolph Rupp for fourth place all-time in Division I.
In the loss at home to the Orange, Providence stayed with Syracuse for most of the game and shot 48.9 percent, the second-highest Syracuse has allowed this season. The Friars also made six 3-pointers but were unable to overcome the hot-shooting Orange, who hit 19 of 26 (73.1 percent) shots in the second half, including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.
The Orange didn't resemble that team on Saturday night and seemed ripe for an upset when they started sluggishly, going more than 5 minutes between baskets. After Baye Keita, Waiters and James Southerland missed three straight shots in a flurry under the Providence basket, the Friars tied it 12-all on Brice Kofane's turnaround jumper at the shot-clock buzzer.
But after two free throws by Henton moved Providence within 17-16, Syracuse put together one of the spurts that have made the Orange unbeatable so far this season, running off 15 straight points as the Friars lost the ball time after time.
"We're limited with our personnel," Cooley said. "I think I have three guys in the top five in minutes played in the country. We have to improve our decision-making. We basically have one point guard, who was suspended. Everybody played out of position, but I was really proud of our guys. I think our kids gave a great effort. We've got to move on."
Joseph started the decisive rush with a pretty no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Jardine for a layup and C.J. Fair then stole the ball and fed Jardine for a fast-break layup. Waiters followed with a pull-up jumper in the lane, his first basket after two misses from long range, and Fair converted a short baseline jumper to boost the Syracuse lead to 25-16 with 3:38 left in the opening half.
Waiters then hit a 3 and a fall-away jumper, both from the right wing, and Joseph's two free throws made it 32-16 with 2:04 to go. Jardine's 3 at the first-half buzzer off a feed from Waiters gave Syracuse a commanding 38-21 lead at the break.
If the Friars had any hope of a rally, they had a much steeper climb than the first meeting, when they trailed 36-34 at halftime.
Syracuse made that thought moot when it began the second half with a 15-4 run as Jardine's play-making ability was on full display. He fed Fab Melo for a pair of slam dunks, passed to Joseph underneath for a reverse layup, and hit Rakeem Christmas for another dunk after Christmas had made a block at the other end.
Syracuse has led every game at halftime. The closest games the Orange have had were a 69-63 triumph over Stanford at Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-off in late November and a 72-68 win over then-No. 10 Florida at home on Dec. 2, five days after associate head coach Bernie Fine was fired amid allegations of sexual abuse.