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Johnson, Syracuse crush Vermont

Buffalo, NY (Sports Network) - Wes Johnson's 18 points were at the head of a balanced and thorough attack, as top-seeded Syracuse easily advanced with a 79-56 rout of Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Scoop Jardine added 14 points, Rick Jackson 12 and Andy Rautins contributed 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Syracuse buried 54.5 percent of its shots, and without fifth-year senior starting swingnman Arinze Onuaku.

It remains unknown if Onuaku will return from a right quadriceps injury when Syracuse takes on Gonzaga in the second round on Sunday.

The Orange (29-4), who are in the tourney for a 33rd time, made sure history did not repeat itself Friday and reversed course from a shocking defeat to Vermont in their last meeting five years ago.

The Catamounts (25-10) were a No. 13 seed in 2005 when they shocked Syracuse, 60-57, in overtime in a first-round matchup. This year's squad, the America East Conference Tournament champs, didn't fare so well and were led by Marqus Blakely's 17 points.

Evan Fjeld chipped in 13 points and Nick Vier eight with six assists. Vermont shot 34.8 percent from the floor, made only half its 10 fouls shots and 5- of-22 from three-point range.

The game started with the Joseph brothers trading buckets. Maurice, Vermont's second-leading scorer, drained a three-pointer, and Kris, Syracuse's third- leading scorer, answered with a dunk to add a little pizzazz to what quickly became a certain outcome.

The Orange scored the next nine points following the exchange to take an 11-3 edge on Rautins' layup five minutes in. Johnson, the Big East Player of the Year, boosted the lead to 10 with a three-pointer two minutes gone by.

A debilitating 20-2 'Cuse run embarked moments later on a Johnson jumper and Jardine helped roll the margin to 25 with 11 points during the surge.

"Our defense was really good the whole game and we were very good on offense. I thought everybody really contributed," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "We haven't had slow starts this year very often. Our defense was better at the beginning. That was the big key."

The Orange headed to the locker room with a 37-25 lead after Vermont rattled off 15 of the last 17 points of the half, but the momentum was quickly back with Syracuse.

The Orange connected on a staggering 62.5 percent of their shots in the second half and a pair of three-pointers each from Rautins and Brandon Triche inside the opening four minutes had the score at 51-32.

"I thought if we could have made shots, we could have stayed in the game and made it a little more interesting," said Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan. "We did not shoot the ball well against a great team like that. You have to really make open three-pointers and open jumpshots."

It was still a 14-point game when Blakely and Joey Accaoui put in consecutive baskets for Vermont with just under eight minutes to play. Triche and Johnson followed with back-to-back threes to leave little doubt about the outcome.

Game Notes

Syracuse avoided being the latest Big East team to get ousted from the tournament. West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Villanova also remain a day after Notre Dame, Marquette and Georgetown fell to lower seeds. Louisville was then taken out by Cal Friday...Vermont had won 11 of the last 12 outings coming in...Triche ended with 10 points and Kris Joseph scored eight...Maurice Joseph finished with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting for the Catamounts.

03/20 01:51:24 ET

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