PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — C.J. Fair scored a career-high 21 points and Scoop Jardine added 17, including a dagger 3-pointer with 1:11 to play, as No. 2 Syracuse escaped another close one with a 74-64 victory over Rutgers on Sunday.
The Orange (27-1, 14-1) improved their lead in the Big East standings to 2 1-2 games over No. 12 Marquette and No. 23 Notre Dame. They won two of their last three games by three points or less and this one looked to be going the same way.
The Scarlet Knights (12-15, 4-10) beat two Top Ten teams this season at home — Florida and Connecticut — and they were right there with the Orange, who have won 12 straight games in the series.
Gilvydas Biruta matched his career-high with 21 points for Rutgers, which was within two points four times from the 8:45 mark until there was 3:08 to play.
The Scarlet Knights couldn’t tie the game or take the lead on seven possessions with the two-point deficit.
The last time they got that close was 64-62 with 3:08 left.
Jardine, who had seven assists, hit a jumper 25 seconds later to make it a four-point game. Rutgers turned the ball over and then got a break when Dion Waiters missed two free throws with 1:54 to go.
Eli Carter missed a 3-point attempt for Rutgers and after a timeout by Syracuse, Jardine drilled a 3 from the head of the key with 1:11 left and the Orange had a 69-62 lead.
Kris Joseph added 14 points for Syracuse, which was 24 for 48 from the field, including 5 of 12 on 3s. The Orange had a big advantage at the free throw line, going 21 of 31 to Rutgers’ 9 of 11.
Mike Poole had 10 points — eight in the final 9:19 — for the Scarlet Knights, who shot 41.9 percent (26 for 62) but made just 3 of 18 3-point attempts.
Syracuse has won seven straight — including the close wins over No. 10 Georgetown and No. 19 Louisville — since the loss at Notre Dame. Rutgers has dropped five straight and seven of eight.
Syracuse closed the first half on an 8-2 run to take a 40-34 lead.
Biruta, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, came into the game averaging 9.3 points. He had that many 8 1-2 minutes into the game, taking advantage of moving the ball down low against Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone. He was 6 of 9 from the field for 14 points and had five of Rutgers’ 17 rebounds as the Scarlet Knights managed a 17-13 advantage off the boards in the first half.
Biruta broke double figures just once in his last 12 games.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)