C.J. Fair didn't have many chances to be the main option for Syracuse last season.
Now he has plenty.
The 6-foot-8 forward has gone from the Orange's fourth option to No. 1, and he showed why Sunday in a 68-63 victory over St. John's at Madison Square Garden.
"We went to C.J., and he made a couple of tough plays. Shots that had to be made," Coach Jim Boeheim said. "He's been a key player. He wasn't our first option last year but he's always made big shots, big plays for us. We had other guys but he was developing. He's going to get the ball and these opportunities, and he's prepared for that."
Never miss a local story.
Fair hit three big shots from the same spot — about 15 feet from the basket on the right baseline. The smooth left-handed shooter tied the game from there at 58 with 6:51 to go, then he made two more in the final three minutes as the second-ranked Orange (10-0) were able to open a lead as big as seven points.
"I'm very comfortable on the baseline. I guess that's what you say is my sweet spot," he said.
Since 1979, this had always been a Big East Conference game. Syracuse is now a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and St. John's remained in the Big East. The majority of the crowd of 16,357 was rooting for Syracuse, something they used to get to do during the Big East tournament. Now, it will be a rare visit to Madison Square Garden for the Orange.
"It was a great game at the Garden," Boeheim said.
Fair and freshman guard Tyler Ennis both scored 21 points to lead the Orange.
Ennis had 15 points in the first half as Syracuse took a 39-27 lead. The Red Storm (6-3) chipped away and were able to tie it at 53 on three free throws by Rysheed Jordan with 9:16 to go. There were then four lead changes and three ties as Syracuse became the second highly ranked team to escape this weekend.
No. 1 Arizona beat Michigan 72-70 on Saturday.
Ennis was "really unbelievable" in the first half, Boeheim said.
"In the second half they did a much better job on him," he said. "As a freshman point guard, he is playing better than any I ever had, and I've had a few pretty good freshman guards. If he played like a freshman, we'd be 7-3. He's been the difference in our team."
No. 24 Missouri 66, Western Michigan 60: Jabari Brown scored 15 points while Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross both added 12 to help Missouri win at Columbia, Mo.
Missouri (10-0) looked rusty at times after an eight-day break for final exams and clung to a 47-45 lead with 10:46 remaining. Tony Criswell's jumper two minutes later capped a 9-0 run as the Tigers pulled away.
Missouri stretched its NCAA-best homecourt winning streak to 25 games and has won 80 straight games against nonconference opponents at Mizzou Arena dating to the 2005-06 opener.
Northern Kentucky 87, Chattanooga 71: Jordan Jackson scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half as Northern Kentucky, which had six players score in double figures, pulled away from Chattanooga at Highland Heights.
Tyler White's three-pointer with 17:44 remaining sparked a 19-0 run by NKU (2-7) that was capped by another three-pointer from Dean Danos. The Norse hit four of their seven three-point shots in that stretch which ended with NKU leading 67-45.
The Norse's Jalen Billups and Anthony Monaco each scored 12 points while White, Jake Giesler (Newport Central Catholic) and Danos finished with 10 each.
Bowling Green 67, Morehead State 61: Richaun Holmes scored nine of his game-high 17 points in the final 4:17 to lead Bowling Green to a win at Morehead. Holmes tied a career-high with seven blocked shots, which he set in BGSU's win over North Dakota on Dec. 11, and is averaging six per game over his last four contests.
Morehead State, which shot 30.6 percent from the field and 24 percent from three-point range, was paced by Brent Arrington's 16 points. Kareem Storey dished out nine assists and Chad Posthumus pulled down 11 rebounds.
Pikeville 107, Alice Lloyd 70: The Bears, 9-1 and ranked third in NAIA, overwhelmed the Eagles in the East Ky. Expo Center. Pikeville's defense scored 33 points off 18 turnovers.
Bruce Reed led Pikeville with 21 points and Chris Cantino had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Elisha Justice (Shelby Valley) had 11 points and six assists.
Western Kentucky 83, Jackson State 48: Western went on an early 23-2 run and cruised to a win at home.
Freshman center Bria Gaines had a game-high 15 points and added 12 rebounds, both career highs. Junior forward Chastity Gooch (Franklin-Simpson) also posted a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Junior Alexis Govan added 13 points and extended her streak of scoring in double figures in consecutive games to 45, the second longest active streak in the nation.
Pikeville 78, Alice Lloyd 70: Callisha Johnson scored 18 points to go with five assists in Pikeville's win at home.
Ariel Nickell and Carla Booth (Sheldon Clark) had 28 and 24 points, respectively, for the Eagles.
Butler 53, Northern Kentucky 47: Ijeoma Uchendu and Taylor Schippers combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds to lead Butler to a win in Indianapolis.
Kelley Wiegman scored a career-high 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor to lead the Norse (4-5).