The suddenly struggling Syracuse Orange will attempt to bounce back on Monday as they host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a Big East Conference bout at the Carrier Dome.
This will be the first matchup between these teams since Notre Dame ruined Syracuse's perfect season with a 67-58 decision at the Joyce Center on Jan. 2, 2012. The win by the Fighting Irish dropped Syracuse's all-time series lead to 24-19.
Mike Brey's Fighting Irish survived a scare in Rosemont over the weekend as they went into overtime with the DePaul Blue Demons after blowing a nine-point halftime lead. Jack Cooley registered a monster double-double of 26 points and 16 rebounds, his 14th of the season, to help Notre Dame escape with a 79-71 victory that moved the team to 18-3, including 6-4 in the Big East standings, a half-game behind Syracuse and Marquette for first place.
Cooley is having a sensational senior campaign, leading Notre Dame in scoring (15.6) and the Big East in both total rebounding (11.3) and offensive rebounding (4.6). The wide-bodied, 6-foot-9 forward has 27 career double- doubles, which all have occurred in the last two seasons. The Fighting Irish have a very balanced team supporting Cooley. They rank fourth in the nation as a team in assists with 18.0 per contest, thanks to their stellar junior backcourt combo of Eric Atkins (11.8 ppg, 6.2 apg) and Jerian Grant (12.6 ppg, 5.6 apg). Sophomore swingman Pat Connaughton provides just under 10 ppg along with a tenacious approach on the defensive end. Scott Martin could make a big impact as well after finishing with 13 points and six rebounds in Notre Dame's upset of Syracuse last season.
Syracuse comes into this one looking to snap a two-game slide. First, the Orange were upset, 75-71, in overtime at Villanova before they suffered a 65-55 setback at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The back-to-back setbacks have given Jim Boeheim's squad its first losing streak during the conference portion of the schedule since the 2010-11 campaign. Still, the team puts the nation's longest homecourt win streak on the line, having won 35 straight at the Carrier Dome.
Despite the recent slump, Syracuse will be very tough to knock off. It is leading the Big East in scoring offense at 76.0 ppg, and it is also fifth in the 15-team league on the defensive end with an allowed average of only 59.3 ppg. The Orange were shorthanded in their loss at Pitt, as James Southerland (academics) and DaJuan Coleman (knee) were both unable to play, which shortened the team's bench. C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 20 points and Brandon Triche scored 14 but couldn't stop Syracuse from its first losing streak in nearly two years. Michael Carter-Williams added 13 points for Syracuse but the nation's leader in assists dealt out just two helpers in the loss. The Orange had just five assists on 18 baskets.
Triche (14.9 ppg), Fair (13.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg), and Carter-Williams (12.6 ppg, 8.6 apg) are the active Orange players carrying double-digit scoring averages into Monday's action.