South Bend, IN – Continuing their quest for perfection, the ranked Syracuse Orange have come to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a Big East Conference affair from the Joyce Center.
At 20-0, Syracuse is off to its best start ever, and the team is one of only two at the Division I level still undefeated this deep in the season -- Murray State being the other. With a win today, the Orange will set the record for best start ever by a Big East team as they are currently tied with Boston College, which went 20-0 to begin the 2004-05 campaign. Coach Jim Boeheim's club is coming off a 71-63 win over visiting Pittsburgh on Monday, which ran the team's record at home to 14-0. A win today would also be Boeheim's 877th, putting him alone in fourth place on the all-time Division I list.
Speaking of successful home records, Notre Dame had won 29 straight in South Bend before suffering a 67-53 setback to UConn last Saturday, and the team then went on the road to battle Rutgers, only to fall to the Scarlet Knights in a 65-58 final on Monday night. As a result, the Fighting Irish are 11-8 on the year and an even 3-3 in conference. It's the third time coach Mike Brey's squad has dropped back-to-back games this season. Notre Dame is 9-24 all-time when taking on the No. 1 team in the nation, but is 6-3 at home.
Syracuse has won the last three meetings with Notre Dame to take a 24-18 lead in the all-time series. The Irish are just 8-19 versus the Orange since joining the Big East back in 1995.
Syracuse continues to mow through the opposition, laying claim to a +19.6 scoring margin as the team shoots 48.6 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from three-point range, and 70.9 percent from the free-throw line. Getting it done at the defensive end as well, the Orange yield just 60.3 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 38.1 percent overall and 30.7 percent from beyond the arc. The team boasts three double-digit scorers in Kris Joseph (13.7 ppg), Dion Waiters (13.1 ppg) and Brandon Triche (10.0 ppg), but it is truly a team effort, and one in which the opposition has had absolutely no luck in trying to thwart thus far. Syracuse beat Pittsburgh earlier this week to set the school record for best start ever (20-0), as two players logged double-doubles and five guys in all scored in double figures. Scoop Jardine (12 points, 10 assists) and Fab Melo (10 points, 10 rebounds) had outstanding games, and Waiters scored a game-high 16 points, while Joseph and Triche added 12 points apiece. SU won the game despite being outrebounded, 40-28, by holding the Panthers to 39.3 percent field goal efficiency.
Notre Dame lost leading scorer Tim Abromaitis early this season, and as a result the Irish are averaging 68.9 ppg behind 43.2 percent shooting from the field and 32.2 percent from downtown. UND has performed well at the defensive end, permitting just 64.4 ppg, and both scoring averages have dropped since the start of Big East play, with the team putting up a mere 60.8 ppg while yielding 62.7 ppg. Eric Atkins (13.3 ppg, 3.6 apg), Jerian Grant (12.8 ppg, 4.7 apg) and Jack Cooley (10.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 25 blocks) are Notre Dame's active double-digit scorers, and each also brings more to the table as well. The Irish are being outrebounded (-1.3), but they turn the ball over only 9.9 times per outing. Atkins scored 15 points and Scott Martin added 11 more, but those efforts weren't enough as UND dropped a seven-point decision at Rutgers earlier this week. The Irish shot 44.2 percent from the field, draining seven three-pointers along the way, but the Scarlet Knights claimed a 12-4 edge in second-chance points, and their reserves outscored the visitors by a 24-11 margin.