Cincinnati, OH – Fresh off its first loss of the season, the Syracuse Orange will look to avoid a losing streak as they head to Fifth Third Arena for a Big East battle with the dangerous Cincinnati Bearcats.
This will be just the ninth meeting between the Orange and Bearcats. Syracuse holds an 8-2 edge in the series after winning the last three encounters. The Orange handled Cincinnati in last year's contest with a 67-52 decision in a game played at the Carrier Dome.
Head coach Jim Boeheim saw his team's 20-game win streak snapped as it was handed a 67-58 loss by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday. The Orange had their worst offensive performance of the year in the loss as they set new season lows in points (58), field goal percentage (34.0), and assists (13). Syracuse is still leading the Big East in scoring offense with an average of 78.9 ppg on 48 percent shooting from the field and 35.4 percent shooting from three-point range. The Orange's defense that allowed Notre Dame to make 50 percent of its field goals to score 67 points, is now allowing opponents to score an average of 60.7 ppg.
Syracuse will be without its rebounding and shot-blocking center Fab Melo for the second straight game as he attends to academic issues. Although he does not score an overwhelming amount of points, Melo's inside presence was missed against Notre Dame on both ends of the floor. Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters will need to step up with Melo out. Joseph is the team's leading scorer with an average of 13.6 ppg, but he will need to do better than 4-of-12 from the field to score 12 points, as he did against the Irish. Waiters scored in double-figures for the ninth-straight game against Notre Dame, but also shot a poor percentage to do so. The Orange's 7-1 record in the Big East has them in sole possession of first place, but another defeat would give them the same total of losses as five another teams in the league.
Cincinnati comes in with a 15-5 overall record after its 77-74 overtime loss to West Virginia on Saturday. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak and gave the Bearcats a 5-2 league record, their best start in Big East play yet. Head coach Mark Cronin has won three in a row and six of his last eight against ranked opponents with Cincinnati. Although the Bearcats have the worst field-goal percentage (39.3) in league play, they will attack the Orange's patented 2-3 zone from deep as they have made the second-most three- pointers (57) in Big East action.
With Melo out, Yancy Gates should be a big contributor for the Bearcats. Gates is averaging 12.2 ppg and a team-best 9.4 rpg. The senior forward has recorded double-doubles in each of his last two outings. Sean Kilpatrick is Cincy's top scorer with an average of 16.0 ppg and comes in having scored in double- figures in all but two contests this season. Dion Dixon is the team's second leading scorer with an average of 13.9 ppg, while Cashmere Wright is chipping in 10.8 ppg and a team-high 4.8 apg.