After being sent cross-country to open the NCAA tournament, Syracuse is in no hurry to go back home.
Brandon Triche scored 20 points, C.J. Fair added 13 and the fourth-seeded Orange shut down No. 13 seed Montana with their zone defense in a 81-34 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday night.
Michael Carter-Williams chipped in four points, eight rebounds and nine assists as the Orange (27-9) raced out to an early lead that grew as high as 50 points and coasted past the Grizzlies (25-7) to their most lopsided tournament win since beating Brown 101-52 in the first round in 1986.
Syracuse advanced to play 12th-seeded and local favorite California (21-11) on Saturday for a spot in the East regional in Washington, D.C. next week. The Golden Bears beat UNLV 64-61.
The Orange were the lone team from the Eastern time zone to play in San Jose this week, joining five teams from the Western half of the country and Oklahoma State and St. Louis from the Midwest. Syracuse traveled a day earlier than usual to prepare for the game and looked sharp from the start.
The Orange led by 23 points at halftime and then turned it into a laugher with a 17-2 run to open the second half. Trevor Cooney's 3-pointer midway through the second half made it 62-20.
The Orange were reeling a bit at the end of the regular season, losing four of their final five games capped by a blowout loss at rival Georgetown. Syracuse recovered to win three games to make the final of the Big East tournament and have now started the NCAAs off with a win for the fifth straight year.
For the second straight year, the Grizzlies won the Big Sky tournament to earn an NCAA tournament bid only to fall flat in their opener. They fell 73-49 to Wisconsin a year ago, shooting 38 percent for the game, including a 3-for-14 performance from star guard Will Cherry.
Cherry was hoping for a better performance this year, especially with this game being played less than an hour from his hometown of Oakland. But he scored just two points on 1 for 12 shooting.
The Grizzlies, playing without injured leading scorer Mathias Ward, shot just 20 percent (11 for 54), missed 27 of 31 3-pointers and had more turnovers (17) than made baskets.
With much of the Bay Area crowd still basking in the earlier win by California, Syracuse got off to a fast start to put to rest any questions about whether a third straight double-digit seed team would win in San Jose following wins by the Bears and Oregon earlier in the day.
Fair handled the early scoring load, scoring nine points in the opening 6 minutes to give Syracuse an 18-4 lead. The Orange made seven of their first nine shots as their superior athleticism and size created easy chances almost every time down the floor.
That size gave Montana problems on the other end against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. The Grizzlies struggled to penetrate the defense and got few easy looks, missing eight straight shots in a span of more than 6 minutes early in the game to fall into a hole that proved too big to overcome.
Christmas followed Fair's 3-pointer with an alley-oop dunk off a nice feed from Carter-Williams and James Southerland's 3-pointer from the wing made it 30-11 with less than 6 minutes to go in the half.
Fair himself had matched Montana's scoring total at that point and the deficit only got bigger at the half when Triche hit a floater and then scored on a breakaway dunk off a block by Baye Moussa Keita to make it 38-15 at the break.