SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Kris Joseph likes his time on the Syracuse bench, even though it's beginning to get briefer as the season moves along.
Joseph, the Orange's standout reserve, had a career-high 23 points and Arinze Onuaku added a season-high 20 as Syracuse (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) beat Providence 85-68 on Tuesday night.
"The main thing for me was doing what I do, which is being aggressive off the bench when the team needs a spark," said Joseph, who has averaged 33 minutes over the past four games after playing just 22 at Notre Dame. "That's what I've been doing all year. That's something I don't want to stop doing."
In the Orange's previous three games, Joseph averaged 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists, going 15 of 29 from the field. Against the Friars, he was 9 of 11 and contributed four steals, combining with Onuaku to score 20 of Syracuse's first 26 points.
Syracuse (22-1, 9-1 Big East) has won nine straight and is off to the best start in school history. The Orange were 21-1 in 1979-80, but they had never won 22 of their first 23 games to begin a season.
"We'll go down in [school] history for this," said Wes Johnson, who sat out most of the second half after a hard fall. "It's a good feeling."
It was the second game of an eight-game span in which the Friars (12-10, 4-6) will face six ranked teams. They beat then-No. 19 Connecticut 81-66 last week to knock the Huskies out of the national rankings but couldn't cope with Syracuse's inside strength.
The Orange repeatedly pounded the ball inside to Onuaku, who was 10 of 12 from the field and had half of Syracuse's eight blocks.
"I thought Arinze was really active out there," Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. "He was the most active he's been all year. Offensively, we played very well in the second half. Defensively, I thought we did a good job for most of the game."
Syracuse broke open a three-point game with a 22-7 spurt to start the second half, and they did it without Johnson, the team's leading scorer. He crashed hard to the court when fouled by Brian McKenzie while trying to convert a lob midway through the first half. Johnson remained down for less than a minute, finished the half, but played only three minutes in the second.
He was barely missed.
"It just shows that they're deep," Providence coach Keno Davis said. "They've got so many guys that can have big games against you. And then their defense. They force you outside. They really understand their defense and they're pretty physical when you try to rebound. It's just a deep, physical, talented team."
After blowing most of a 10-point, first-half lead, Syracuse broke open a three-point game with a 22-7 spurt to start the second half. Onuaku started it with a resounding two-hand dunk, Brandon Triche followed with a pullup 3-pointer after a Providence turnover, and Onuaku's tip-in gave the Orange a 44-34 lead with 18:35 to play.
"That was the goal, to dominate inside," the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Onuaku said. "When you get early touches, that gets you going. That's always good."
With Johnson watching from the bench where Joseph starts every game, Joseph took over. His three-point play and follow on consecutive possessions boosted the lead to 64-41 with 11:24 left.
"The game was close coming into the second half," said Onuaku's partner in the post, 6-9, 240-pound Rick Jackson, who finished with a career-high seven assists. "Coach wasn't pleased with the first half, came in and talked to us, and we just came out how we should have come out in the first half. We came out ready to play, picked it up and took a big lead."
Triche finished with 15 points and four assists without a turnover.
Providence, which entered the game ranked fifth in the nation in scoring at 83.2 points per game, shot 43.1 percent and was 6 of 21 from beyond the arc in barely beating its season low of 63 points.
The teams meet again in three weeks.
"They're a pretty good ballclub," Peterson said. "We play them again at home, so hopefully we get to get them back."
The varying states of NCAA tournament Bracketology
Texas Tech moved up a seed line after a win and struggling Oklahoma dropped after losing its fourth in a row.
Justice, Williams lead Santa Clara past Portland 95-86
— Keshawn Justice scored 2x points, Jalen Williams added 21 and No. 7 seeded Santa Clara held off tenth-seeded Portland 95-86 to conclude the opening round of the West Coast Conference tournament Thursday night.
What are the bracket implications for Duke-UNC?
Joe Lunardi explains what Duke and North Carolina need to do in order to reach the NCAA tournament.