SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Fab Melo had 12 points and 10 blocks, both career-highs, and No. 1 Syracuse stifled Seton Hall at every turn in a 75-49 victory Wednesday night in the Big East opener for both teams.
Syracuse (14-0, 1-0) gained control with a staunch defensive performance in the opening half in building a 34-15 lead.
Melo, who had his first career double-double, pulled in seven rebounds.
Dion Waiters had 15 points and Brandon Triche added 11 for Syracuse, which won easily despite a subpar performance from leading scorer Kris Joseph, who missed all six of his shots and did not score. He did have four steals and four assists.
Jordan Theodore had 14 points for Seton Hall (11-2, 0-1), which had an eight-game winning streak snapped. Herb Pope, fourth in the nation in scoring at 20.3 points per game, had only four points and nine rebounds.
Last January, Jeremy Hazell led a long-range Seton Hall barrage with 28 points and the hot-shooting Pirates stunned ninth-ranked Syracuse 90-68. Seton Hall had seven 3s in in building a 13-point halftime lead.
The tables were turned this time.
With Hazell gone, Pope is the focus of the Pirates’ attack. He has eight double-doubles, tops in the nation, and had only failed to reach double figures in scoring once, in the Pirates’ win at Longwood on Friday night when he finished with eight in 29 minutes.
On Wednesday, the Syracuse defense clamped down on the big guy, who was 2 of 9 shooting and committed six of Seton Hall’s 23 turnovers. The Orange finished with 17 steals.
Syracuse leads the nation with 11.2 steals per game and a turnover margin of 8.6, and the Orange’s penchant for creating mistakes was on full display in the first half. Seton Hall committed 15 turnovers and Pope led the way with five, scoring just two points on a driving dunk and missing the other five shots he attempted.
Melo closed the first half with a stunning block of Pope under the basket at the buzzer. It was his eighth block of the half and he did it to Pope again early in the second after scoring two straight baskets. Melo converted a miss by Triche and scored off a nice feed underneath from Joseph to boost the lead to 42-20 with 16:19 left.
A 3-pointer by Scoop Jardine boosted the lead to 50-26 at 13:35.
The Pirates missed their first six shots and Syracuse gained a 6-1 lead when Triche followed his own miss and fed Melo for a dunk.
Consecutive baskets by Waiters, the second a steal and dunk, boosted the lead to 12-3 as the Orange began to steadily pull away. When Theodore hit a 3 from the left wing at 8:05, he had 10 of Seton Hall’s 12 points.
Syracuse finished with 15 blocks, five off the school record set Jan. 11, 1992, against Miami.