The schedule has been rather soft for Syracuse, which has rolled to 14 consecutive victories to open the season, 11 of which have come by double figures. There have been a few wins over strong competition, including a four- point triumph over Florida and victories over the likes of Stanford, Virginia Tech and NC State. On Wednesday, the Orange crushed Seton Hall by a 75-49 final to open Big East play.
As for DePaul, it has ripped off five consecutive victories to improve to 9-3 overall, and tonight's game represents the conference opener for the squad. The Blue Demons have been idle since a December 21 triumph over Cal Poly by a 63-58 final, and this matchup with the Orange represents a major leap in competition level.
The Orange own an 8-4 series lead over the Blue Demons, and the programs have split their four previous meetings in Rosemont. Last season, Syracuse embarrassed DePaul by a 107-59 final.
Syracuse lacks the type of player capable of consistently dominating games at the offensive end of the floor. Fortunately, the roster is loaded with experience and features plenty of consistent contributors. Kris Joseph continues to pace the Orange with 13.4 ppg, while Dion Waiters adds 12.5 ppg off the bench. Brandon Triche (9.9 ppg) is close to averaging double figures, and Scoop Jardine paces the club with 55 assists. Syracuse is generating a solid 80.3 ppg while limiting opponents to 58.3 ppg on 37.7 percent shooting from the floor. In the romp over Seton Hall last time out, Waiters scored 15 points to lead the way. Center Fab Melo pitched in 12 points for Syracuse, which racked up 20 assists while turning the ball over only seven times. The Orange also finished with an 11-4 edge in points from the foul line and limited the Pirates to 31.7 percent field goal efficiency.
Against Cal Poly, DePaul got 16 points apiece from Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, two of the team's starters. Melvin ripped down eight boards in that tilt, while Young handed out six assists. Jamee Crockett provided some added offense with his 10 points, and the fact that the Blue Demons committed only five turnovers in that affair was tremendously impressive. Defensively, they held Cal Poly to 37.7 percent field goal efficiency. Overall this season, Melvin is scoring 18.5 ppg to go along with 6.5 rpg, and Young is close behind with 17.4 ppg on the strength of his 53.8 percent shooting from the floor. Young has handed out 57 assists already, while Jeremiah Kelly is second in that department with 49 assists. Kelly is scoring 10.6 ppg to go along with a club-best 21 steals for DePaul, which is scoring 77.8 ppg while yielding 70.3 ppg.