Syracuse, NY – The third-ranked Syracuse Orange return home to defend their top spot in the conference standings, as they welcome in the West Virginia Mountaineers for a Big East showdown at the Carrier Dome.
Jim Boeheim's Orange suffered their first loss of the season last weekend at Notre Dame, but were able to quickly gain some distance from the setback with a solid 60-53 win at Cincinnati this week. With the victory, Boeheim passed Adolph Rupp for fourth place on the all-time wins list with 877. The win also pushed Syracuse to 8-1 in league play, a full two games up in the conference standings.
Bob Huggins is certainly not stranger to winning games either, with 706 career victories. Huggins was unable to add to his win total earlier this week, as West Virginia saw a three-game win streak come to a close with a humbling 78-62 loss to St. Johns. The loss dropped the Mountaineers to 5-3 in- conference and just 1-4 on the road.
This is the 50th meeting between these two teams, with Syracuse holding a 33-16 edge all-time, thanks to wins in 12 of the last 13 meetings. WVU's last win came in 2008 in the first-ever meeting between Boeheim and Huggins.
West Virginia struggled with St. John's zone defense, shooting a miserable .354 from the floor, including a mere 5-of-22 showing from behind the arc. Standout forward Kevin Jones continued his torrid pace however, posting his sixth straight game with 20 points or more, recording his 14th double-double of the season with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Darryl Bryant tacked on 16 points as well, but the pair got little offensive support elsewhere. A potent one-two punch this season, Jones and Bryant give the team a balanced attack. Jones has been unstoppable in the low post, leading the conference in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and rebounding (11.6 rpg). Bryant fills it up from the perimeter to the tune of 17.4 ppg (sixth in the Big East). Forward Deniz Kilicli (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) provides the team with a third option. Jones and Kilicli are both shooting over 50 percent from the floor this year, helping the team convert a steady 46 percent overall, leading to a healthy 75.0 ppg.
The Orange have lost their inside presence with center Fab Melo missing time due to academics. However, that didn't prevent the team from getting back in the win column this week against the Bearcats. Forward Kris Joseph led the way in the win with 17 points. Guards Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche tacked on 13 and 11 points, respectively. Jardine doled out six assists and had no turnovers in 30 minutes of action. The Orange were able to hold Cincinnati to a mere .344 shooting effort in the game. Syracuse is averaging an impressive 78.0 ppg this season to lead the Big East, despite lacking a prolific scoring threat. Joseph paces the team in that department with 13.7 ppg. Dion Waiters is a valuable asset off the bench with 12.5 ppg, while Triche (9.9 ppg), Jardine (8.5 ppg) and C.J. Fair (8.4 ppg) provide scoring depth. Melo isn't much of a scorer (7.2 ppg), but his defensive presence in the paint is his greatest strength. The 7-0 sophomore is averaging a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game, while he ranks second in the Big East in blocked shots (60).