Georgia Tech-Syracuse Preview
MAR 03, 2014 10:29p ET
While late-season struggles cost Syracuse a chance at the ACC title, the status of the team's top rebounder may be a bigger concern right now.
With Jerami Grant ailing from a nagging injury, No. 7 Syracuse will try to bounce back from its most lopsided defeat of the season by sending Georgia Tech to its fifth straight Tuesday night.
The Orange (26-3, 13-3) have lost three of four after reeling off 25 straight wins to start the season, rising to the top of the AP poll. They're not even the top team in their conference after falling 75-56 to then-No. 12 Virginia on Saturday, a loss that gave the ACC championship to the Cavaliers.
"This is the first game all year that we have been out of the game," coach Jim Boeheim said.
Part of the problem for Boeheim's team Saturday was a 39-29 rebounding disadvantage. Grant, who has been bothered by injuries throughout the season and is now dealing with an ailing back, was limited to one rebound and no points in 13 minutes against Virginia.
The sophomore forward averages 11.8 points and a team-high 6.7 boards.
"Jerami is a key part of this team. You can't really replace Jerami Grant in the low post," guard Tyler Ennis said.
Regardless of Grant's status, Syracuse will likely need to show improvement from the field. The Orange turned in one of their worst performances of the season Saturday, connecting on 35.7 percent from the floor - 5 for 22 from beyond the arc.
They're making just 36.7 percent of their shots and 24.2 from long range over the past four games, a dramatic drop from their 44.1 and 34.0 percentages on the season.
Trevor Cooney is averaging 7.5 points over the past four games, while converting on just 10 of 38 field goals, including 6 of 29 3-pointers. The sophomore guard is second on the team with 12.8 points per game after scoring 12 against Virginia.
Cooney and the Orange could be poised for an improved effort since Georgia Tech (13-16, 4-12) is allowing an average of 69.6 points and 48.0 percent shooting over the past five games.
The Yellow Jackets' struggles continued with poor performances at both ends of the court in Sunday's 81-71 loss at Florida State. Georgia Tech surrendered 52.4 percent from the floor and shot 36.2 percent, including 5 of 27 from 3-point range.
"We have a couple guys who have to do a better job. We have to guard the triple," coach Brian Gregory said. "I like the way the guys continue to battle.
"We need to build on some of the positives. Offensive rebounding is going to be big against Syracuse, or transition defense is going to be big."
Robert Carter Jr. has been a bright spot of late, scoring 20 points against the Seminoles after getting 19 in a 65-62 loss at Notre Dame on Wednesday in his first start in two months.
Georgia Tech and Syracuse have split four all-time meetings, with the Orange winning the most recent 80-76 in the finale of the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, N.J. on Nov. 27, 2010.
The Yellow Jackets have lost 15 of 16 against ranked opponents, including all four meetings this season.