Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - A couple of historically-rich college basketball programs meet on Tuesday night as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, as the Indiana Hoosiers come calling on the fourth-ranked Syracuse Orange.
Indiana brings a 6-1 record into this matchup, the team getting past a slew of inferior opponents while suffering its lone setback in a slim 59-58 decision against nationally-ranked Connecticut on Nov. 22 at Madison Square Garden in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic. The Hoosiers bounced back from that defeat to handle Evansville at home last Tuesday, 77-46. This bout marks IU's first true road game of the season.
Syracuse is undefeated at this point in the campaign, having run roughshod through its mostly overmatched opponents, although its recent title run in the Maui Invitational saw the team knock off major conference foes Minnesota (75-67), California (92-81) and Baylor (74-67). The Orange, who have one of the best homecourt advantages in the nation, are 4-0 at the Carrier Dome this season.
Syracuse owns a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series with Indiana, and this is the first meeting between the two that is not on a neutral court. Since the Hoosiers won the first encounter in the 1987 National Championship Game, the Orange have won the last four, including a 61-50 decision in last season's Sweet 16 matchup.
Indiana is getting it done at both ends of the court this season, putting up 86.4 ppg behind a 46.3 percent accuracy from the field, while at the same time permitting just 66.6 ppg, with foes draining only 35.1 percent of their total shots. The Hoosiers have struggled with the 3-pointer though, hitting just 30- of-107 (.280), but so have their opponents (.262). Corralling loose balls has played an instrumental role in the team's solid start, as its +18 rebounding margin is tops in the country coming into the week. IU boasts four double- digit scorers, with Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell leading the way with his 18.1 ppg. Not only a guy who can fill up the basket, Ferrell also does his best to get his teammates involved by handing out 27 assists (3.9 per game), while knocking down nearly as many 3-pointers (17) as his closest teammate has attempts (22). Freshman Noah Vonleh is averaging a double-double with 12.9 points and 10.4 caroms per contest, while Will Sheehey (11.1 ppg) and Jeremy Hollowell (10.0 ppg) have also done their best to keep the Hoosiers moving forward.
Hollowell scored a career-high 18 points, and Vonleh finished with 13 points and 12 boards as Indiana routed visiting Evansville last week. The Purple Aces came into the game as one of the better shooting teams in the nation, but they were held to just 29.1 percent field goal efficiency, which included a dismal 3-of-16 effort from beyond the arc. IU came up with 58 rebounds compared to only 30 for Evansville, and a 25-11 edge in points from the foul line as well as a 41-15 advantage in bench points had an impact as well. In all, 13 Hoosiers scored in the game, and 15 had at least one rebound.
Syracuse hasn't been nearly as dominant this season, at least from a statistical standpoint, but the Orange certainly have their favorable margins as well. Jim Boeheim's squad is shooting 45.3 percent from the field in netting 76.7 ppg, while foes are producing 64.1 ppg in hitting 44.9 percent of their total shots. SU is +5.5 in rebounding margin and +7.7 in turnovers, forcing an average of 17.4 miscues per outing. Senior forward C.J. Fair has performed very well in the early going, averaging 18.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and he is one of four starters shooting better than 80 percent from the foul line (.889). Trevor Cooney (14.3 ppg) and Tyler Ennis (11.7 ppg) have excelled from their spots in the SU backcourt, with Cooney also serving as the team's top 3-point shooter (21-of-46, .457), and Ennis its primary playmaker (4.7 apg).
Led by Fair, it was the Syracuse frontcourt that did the most damage in the Maui Invitational title tilt against Baylor, as he tallied 24 points while Jerami Grant came off the bench to net 19. Cooney and Ennis chipped in 11 points apiece, with the latter also doling out nine assists and logging four steals. As a team, the Orange shot 50.8 percent from the floor, but went just 4-of-12 from long range, and they were outrebounded by a 33-21 margin. Baylor shot an even better 55.3 percent overall, made good on 9-of-19 3-point tries, but went only 6-of-12 at the charity stripe while committing 20 turnovers.