SU looking to continue dominance over Rutgers Saturday

After breaking its losing streak with a comeback win over West Virginia Monday, Syracuse hopes to win its 11th consecutive game against Rutgers when the Orange host the Scarlet Knights Saturday.

Saturday Syracuse will welcome the Rutgers into the Carrier Dome. The Orange will be looking to extend their winning streak against the Scarlet Knight’s to 11 straight.

However, this is not the typical Rutgers team of the past. Led by first-year head coach Mike Rice, the Scarlet Knights have showcased outstanding defensive intensity and discipline over the course of the season. Rutgers even pulled off one of the biggest conference upsets of the year, when it defeated Villanova on a four-point play in the closing seconds. 

“Rutgers can play with anybody,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after earning his 850th career win against West Virginia. 

The Orange (21-6, 8-6) will look to continue their success following a comeback victory over West Virginia on Valentine’s Day.

Sophomore guard Brandon Triche has led the charge lately for SU. After two consecutive games of scoring more than 20 points, Triche is shooting the ball with confidence and has been drawing praise from his coach for doing so.

“Brandon has been very aggressive,” Boeheim said. “That has been very important for our team.” 

During the Orange’s rough stretch this season, they have struggled to get easy buckets in transition and in the paint. Against the Mountaineers though, SU was able to run the floor early and often.

Syracuse scored 19 points in transition, while not allowing any transition points on the defensive end. In the paint, SU scored 34 points, a far cry from the previous games where the Orange seemed happy to settle for jumpers.

One area that has consistently hurt the Orange this season is their opponents 3-point shooting. Despite the Mountaineers not being a good 3-point shooting team, SU’s 2-3 zone allowed West Virginia to shoot 11-of-22 from deep. WVU’s Casey Mitchell singlehandedly hit seven 3’s, the second game in a row where one opposing player has torched the Syracuse zone.

Luckily for the Orange, Rutgers does not shoot particularly well from the field, but it does have two shooters who possess deep range.

Leading scorer and rebounder Jonathan Mitchell, a senior forward who transferred from Florida’s title team in 2007, is seventh in the Big East in scoring at 16.9 points per game and shoots 42 percent from long range. It was his four-point play in the closing seconds against Villanova that allowed Rutgers to win its biggest game in recent memory.

Rutgers senior guard James Beatty is another threat to the Syracuse zone. Beatty leads the Scarlet Knights with 54 made 3’s and is also an adept ball handler. Dane Miller, a member of last season’s All-Big East Freshman Team, is also having a good year for the Scarlet Knights while averaging 9.3 points per game. A high-flyer in the open-court, Miller looks to get started with easy buckets in transition.

Syracuse will need its bench to step up during the last few games of Big East play heading into the postseason. Two of its contributing members, Baye Moussa Keita and Dion Waiters have struggled of late. Against West Virginia, the two freshmen combined for zero points and only five rebounds in 18 minutes.

“This is not a league for freshman,” Boeheim said in his press conference after the WVU game.

However, one freshman has stepped up and is playing a vital role for SU and that is C.J. Fair. In his the last six games, he is averaging nine points and more than five rebounds per game. His surge into the rotation should help the Orange as the season comes to a close.

Tipoff for Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m.

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