SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Fordham knew what was coming, and still couldn't figure out Syracuse's stifling zone defense.
Chris Gaston scored 13 points but the Rams shot just 34.6 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers during a season-opening 78-53 loss at the fifth-ranked Orange on Saturday.
"I just don't think we're going to play against a zone like that the rest of the year," coach Tom Pecora said. "A lot of the shots we missed were because of their length. We're going to have guys a little bit smaller than that contesting shots. We need to do a better job of gapping the ball against the zone."
When Fordham tried to shoot from the perimeter, there was a Syracuse arm in there to contest the attempt. When the Rams tried to get the ball inside, the Orange big men descended upon whoever was driving to the basket and blocked the shot or stole the ball.
Fordham went 4 for 21 from 3-point range and Syracuse blocked seven shots, including four from 7-foot center Fab Melo.
Gaston, Fordham's leading scorer from a season ago, went 4 for 12 from the field. Freshman guard Bryan Smith scored 13, and Branden Frazier had nine points, three steals and three assists. Kerwin Bristol added eight rebounds.
"They were really long," Gaston said. "It was really hard for me to get shots, and get around a couple of their defenders. They're a really long team."
Kris Joseph scored 16 points and Dion Waiters added 14 for Syracuse. Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair had nine points apiece and Scoop Jardine and James Southerland each scored seven as coach Jim Boeheim emptied his bench in the first meeting between the schools since Syracuse's 80-63 victory four years ago.
Fordham was 7-21 last year and 1-15 in the Atlantic 10, going 17 straight games without a win despite the performance of Gaston, who ranked fourth nationally with 11.3 rebounds per game and also averaged nearly 16 points.
The Rams have four freshmen and three sophomores this season, and got off to a slow start against the Orange. They shot 25.9 percent (7 of 27) in the first half and made only 1 of 10 from beyond the arc.
Fordham went more than 11 minutes without a basket — from a fast-break layup by Frazier at 17:56 to a tip by Gaston with 6:29 left — as Syracuse led by as many as 18 points in the first half.
Even when the Rams had open shots, they quickly disappeared. When the 6-foot-10 Bristol went up for an easy shot with 2:36 left in the first half, Southerland soared high above and stuffed it, though he was called for a foul.
The Orange led 32-19 at the break after registering six blocks and making 5 of 11 3-pointers. Five players scored five points apiece in the period, with Jardine, Waiters, Joseph, Fair and Southerland each hitting one 3.
Syracuse put the game out of reach with a 15-5 spurt in the second. Joseph hit a 3 from the left wing, Fair converted a miss by Joseph, and Waiters' steal and fast-break dunk capped the run and made it 51-28 with 12:49 left.