By John Vogl
Jerami Grant gave the Syracuse fans what they wanted to see. He also helped give them a reason to beat the traffic.
Grant’s poster-worthy dunk over Western Michigan’s Shayne Whittington drew a thunderous mix of applause and astonished gasps this afternoon and was easily the highlight of Syracuse’s effortless 77-53 victory in First Niagara Center.
- Photo gallery: Syracuse 77, Western Michigan 53
- Photo gallery: Syracuse fans in First Niagara Center
- Photo gallery: NCAA scene around town
When Grant made his way to the bench for a breather midway through the second half, many in the orange-clad crowd of 19,260 gave him a nice ovation and headed toward the exits with the game easily in hand, 61-35.
Grant finished with 16 points as Syracuse improved to 28-5. Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney paced all scorers with 18 points, including four three-pointers. Orange backcourt mate Tyler Ennis added 16 points and six assists.
Western Michigan shot just 34.7 percent and was outrebounded, 41-25, in ending its season 23-10.
The Syracuse fans will be back Saturday when the No. 3 Orange meet 11th-seeded Dayton in the third round of the South Region.
Two big runs in the first half made the difference.
Syracuse backers stand and rhythmically clap until the first bucket by their squad, and they had a little bit of a wait. Grant made it worth it with a big dunk with 1:18 gone. It was just the start as the Orange opened the game with a 17-4 run.
Western Michigan gained its footing midway through the first half, pulling within eight points at 19-11. Unfazed, Syracuse responded with a 14-2 spurt to put no doubt who would advance to meet Dayton, which upset Ohio State, 60-59.
Ennis closed the run with back-to-back buckets, including a three-pointer, to make it 33-13 with 2:53 left. Syracuse had its highest-scoring first half since December and headed to the dressing room with a 40-21 lead.
The Orange scored 13 points off 11 first-half turnovers by the Broncos.