TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -California, North Carolina and now Florida.
It doesn't matter which ranked team Syracuse plays, the seventh-ranked Orange seem to have all the answers during an impressive run to start the season.
``With all the problems you can have in the world, we don't have a lot right now,' coach Jim Boeheim said Thursday night after Syracuse remained unbeaten with an 85-73 victory over No. 10 Florida in the SEC/Big East Invitational.
``We'll probably encounter some problems,' Boeheim added. ``But right now, we don't have a lot.'
Rick Jackson scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Andy Rautins had 18 points and Wes Johnson finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for Syracuse (9-0) in its ninth double-digit victory.
The Orange beat Cal by 22 points, defeated defending national champion North Carolina by 16 and pulled away in the closing minutes against a Florida team that looks like it is capable of making some noise in the Southeastern Conference this season.
Reserve Kris Joseph contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds against the previously unbeaten Gators (8-1).
``I think these early games like this, when you play really good teams, the things you don't do well in a particular game generally get really, really exposed,' Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ``Some things that I think came out to light, transition defense, rebounding.'
Syracuse led most of the game, but the Gators stayed close by making 12 3-pointers in 30 attempts.
Kenny Boynton made five 3s and led the Gators with 20 points and seven assists. Chandler Parsons scored 19 and Erving Walker added 14.
``Just based on what I've seen with Syracuse, they are capable of winning a national championship,' Donovan said.
``I haven't seen everybody play, but I would be hard pressed to say that there's three or four teams better than them. I think they have everything. They've got a low post presence. They rebound. They shoot the 3. They're an unselfish team. They can turn you over. They can beat you in a lot of different ways.'
Neither team was ranked when the season began, but both quickly worked their way into the Top 10.
Syracuse thumped Cal and North Carolina in the Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden to serve notice that the Orange might be better than anticipated. Florida raised eyebrows by knocking off Florida State and upsetting Michigan State on the way to just the third 8-0 start in school history.
Jackson had 16 points and, just as important, seven offensive rebounds in the first half. The 6-foot-9 junior only took one shot after halftime, finishing 8 of 12 while Johnson and Rautins asserted themselves offensively.
Johnson scored 13 second-half points and Rautins made a 3-pointer that helped the Orange pull away for good after Florida had wiped out a 10-point deficit.
``When we needed to make plays, when they came back at us, we made those big plays and got some space,' Boeheim said. ``But this is a tough team for us to play against.'
The Orange twice built leads of 10 points, only have Florida battle back. The Gators made five 3-pointers in a 15-3 burst that turned a 54-44 deficit into a 59-57 lead. Walker made three in a row during the run, and Boynton and Parsons had one each.
The Orange regrouped, with Rautins and Johnson making 3-pointers to began a 16-4 surge that restored the double-digit lead at 73-63. Boynton hit another long 3 to try to spark another rally, but the closest the Gators would get down the stretch was 73-69 on two free throws by Parsons with 3:24 to go.
Syracuse closed the game on a 12-4 run. The 12-point margin of victory was the smallest for the Orange this season. The previous low was an 88-73 win over Cornell.
``We knew we had a challenge in New York with Cal and North Carolina,' Boeheim said. ``We knew it would be a challenge coming down here. ... This was a tremendous win, given the way they've played.'
The Associated Press News Service
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