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NEW YORK – C.J. Fair didn’t have many chances to be the main option for Syracuse last season.

But the 6-foot-8 senior forward has gone from the Orange’s fourth option to No. 1, and he showed why Sunday in a 68-63 victory over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.

“He’s been a key player,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He wasn’t our first option last year but he’s always made big shots, big plays for us.”

Fair made three big shots from roughly the same spot — about 15 feet from the basket on the right baseline — to help the second-ranked Orange improve to 10-0.

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“ I guess that’s what you say is my sweet spot,” said Fair, who scored 21 points.

Meanwhile, Darrun Hilliard scored 21 points as No. 10 Villanova beat visiting La Salle 73-52.

Eastern loses

CHENEY – UC Irvine defeated Eastern Washington 70-61, the second time this season the Anteaters beat the Eagles.

Three weeks earlier, UC Irvine won 81-58 and its center, 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, blocked 10 shots. Ndiaye had four blocks Sunday for the Anteaters (6-5) before 911 fans.

The Eagles (5-4) missed 17 of 18 shots to start the second half and their 31-29 halftime advantage became a 45-36 lead for UC Irvine.

Tyler Harvey scored 15 points for Eastern.

Other games

• Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson and Devon Collier combined for 44 points as host Oregon State routed Maryland Eastern Shore 98-66.

Collier had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Nelson scored 20 points for the Beavers (5-2).

Byron Wesley scored 20 points, making go-ahead free throws with 1:02 left, and host USC rallied to beat Cal State Bakersfield 63-59 after trailing for most of the second half.

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