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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A win is a win is a win. But when a 24-point, second-half lead shrinks to five, and you're outrebounded by eight, a victory doesn't feel quite as satisfying, especially at home.
But survive is what Syracuse did Saturday.
Andrew White scored a season-high 26 points and Frank Howard had 10 points, a career-high 13 assists and just two turnovers to lead No. 22 Syracuse to a 77-71 victory over North Florida on Saturday.
Syracuse (5-2) survived North Florida (3-7) despite nearly blowing a 56-32 lead with just over 12 minutes left. Dallas Moore, who scored 31 points against Florida on Thursday, led the Ospreys' comeback with a 30-point effort, including 22 in the second half, many of those points coming on NBA-range 3-pointers.
Freshman Tyus Battle, inserted into the starting lineup for the first time this season by coach Jim Boeheim, had a career-high 19 points, 16 in the second half. Dajuan Coleman had a career-high 15 points.
"We established a 24-point lead, and played very well to get to that point, but we gave it back," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We got some people in the game and they weren't ready to play. It got real close. That's what happens when you're not ready to play and compete. That's disappointing. Our bench and rebounding have got to be better."
The Orange were outrebounded 41-33.
In particular, Boeheim was referring to guard John Gillon and forwards Tyler Roberson, a senior who lost his starting slot to Battle, and freshman Taurean Thompson.
White, a fifth-year transfer from Nebraska, has scored in double figures in all seven games. He hit 7 of 13 from beyond the 3-point line. Battle was 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
"I thought we fought hard," Moore said. "At the 12-minute mark (down 56-32) we just decided to keep fighting, keep fighting and that's what we did. Defending and rebounding, that was the key. As long as we defend and rebound we can beat a lot of teams."
And Moore hitting NBA 3s after adjusting to the expansive confines of the Carrier Dome.
"Their zone is different, I normally can't shoot from out there but those guys are so long. It's the best 2-3 zone I've ever seen but down the stretch we got it going to cut the lead," he said. "And the background is different, I was shooting long at first. I just had to see the ball going in a few times. But I adjusted and my teammates found me, and I started knocking down shots."
Moore's 3-pointer brought the Ospreys to 73-68 with just over a minute to go but three foul shots by Howard and another by Battle sealed the win for the Orange.
North Florida: Despite being ranked 305th nationally in defensive efficiency, the Ospreys hung in with Syracuse.
Syracuse: Coming off losses to South Carolina and Wisconsin, the Orange continued to look sluggish, particularly on the offensive end in the first half, then got lazy defensively in the second. If not for White, Syracuse would be in much worse shape.
No. 22 Syracuse is sure to be missing from the Top 25, following Tuesday's loss at Wisconsin and Saturday's struggle against North Florida.
North Florida has week off before hitting the road against Arkansas.
Syracuse meets up with former Big East rival UConn on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
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