Maui, HI (SportsNetwork.com) - C.J. Fair was bloodied but unbowed, scoring 16 points Monday to lead No. 8 Syracuse over Minnesota 75-67 in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.
Fair was hit across the face on a dunk late in the first half and played with a bandage below his right eye for much of the game, but was still able to key an important run in the second half and hit a jumper that gave the Orange some space late.
"We knew coming in this game was going to be a tough game because of the style of defense and the pressure," said Fair. "But I mean it was a good test going forward. We can still keep getting better."
Trevor Cooney had 15 points and Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis scored 12 apiece for the Orange (5-0), who will play California in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Syracuse, which had a week off after squeaking past St. Francis (N.Y.) last Monday, has won its first five games for the sixth straight season. It scored the last eight points
Malik Smith had 16 points to lead Minnesota (5-1), Andre Hollins scored 14 and Austin Hollins had 11. The Golden Gophers, who were trying to go 6-0 for the third time in four seasons, will face Arkansas on Thursday.
"Certainly a hard-fought loss, but I'm very, very proud of our team," said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino. "I thought today and I told them this: When you're building a program and you're at the early, early stages, you want to show you're going to compete on every single possession. Our guys did that tonight."
Syracuse's first game outside of the Carrier Dome this season came 5,000 miles outside it.
Fair, who had 10 rebounds, was hurt on a one-handed dunk with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half when Austin Hollins caught him in the face with his forearm as he tried to block it.
No foul was called on the play and the first half was tight most of the way, with the Orange taking a 39-36 lead into the break.
They opened the second half with a 13-2 run, getting eight points from Fair on the way to a 52-38 lead.
The Gophers climbed back, getting within 67-65 after a pair of Andre Hollins free throws with 2:14 left, but didn't score again until the final seconds.
Fair's jumper gave the Orange a little breathing room and a steal by Ennis led to two Grant free throws for a 71-65 lead with 46.9 seconds left. Grant made two more foul shots and Ennis knocked down a pair for eight straight Syracuse points, sealing the win.
"Many times you'll come to a tournament, it's a 50-point game, 60-point game, and it doesn't take a lot out of you," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "This game is going to take a lot out of us, but we'll be ready. We'll bounce back."
Earlier, Syracuse scored the first seven points and opened the game with a 12-2 run. The Gophers countered with a 15-2 burst keyed by consecutive 3- pointers by Andre Hollins, who scored eight during the stretch. The Orange led by as many as six after that before taking their three-point advantage into halftime.
Cal beat Arkansas 85-77 earlier Monday ... Minnesota beat Syracuse in the 1990 NCAA tournament in the only other meeting between the programs.