Syracuse-Wake Forest Preview
A gritty defensive effort brought Syracuse within one win of matching its best start.
The second-ranked Orange now will likely try to exploit a strong rebounding advantage to win at Wake Forest on Wednesday night.
The Orange (19-0, 6-0 ACC), who are ranked second behind Arizona for the eighth straight week, come off a 64-52 win at Miami on Saturday. They held the Hurricanes without a field goal for 7:34 after Miami pulled to a 46-all tie with 8:20 left.
Syracuse also hit eight consecutive free throws in the final minute after starting 9 of 19 from the foul line. Coach Jim Boeheim's team, led by 16 points from Jerami Grant, built a lead as large as 18 points in the first half.
The program also started the 2011-12 season 20-0.
"I don't care what our record is - we've had seven games, including this one, that could have easily gone the other way," Boeheim said.
Syracuse, which is 4-0 on the road, claimed a five-point win over then-No. 22 Pittsburgh a week earlier and also edged Miami by five points at home earlier in the month.
"All seven games, somebody has made a play," he said. "That's a good attribute to have, but it also reminds you that you're perilously close to having three or four losses."
After being outrebounded by 11 by the Panthers, the Orange secured a 39-24 edge versus Miami. Syracuse is among the ACC's best teams with an average rebounding margin of plus-5.3 in conference play, while Wake Forest is last at minus-7.4. The Demon Deacons have been outrebounded in all but one of their conference matchups despite Devin Thomas ranking among the ACC leaders with 8.5 rebounds per game.
Wake Forest (14-6, 4-3) has won three of four after losses at Virginia and Pittsburgh by a combined 38 points. The Demon Deacons surpassed their win total from each of the last three seasons with Saturday's 65-58 victory over Notre Dame.
Thomas scored 21 on 10-of-11 shooting after totaling 15 over his previous two games. Travis McKie added 14 points and knocked down four free throws in the final 28 seconds. Wake Forest is 12-0 at home this season, including a victory over then-No. 19 North Carolina on Jan. 5. The Demon Deacons are shooting 50.0 percent in three home conference games while limiting opponents to 39.8 percent.
Thomas is averaging 13.8 points at home on 60.6 percent shooting compared to an 8.6 average with 48.6 shooting on the road.
"We feel very confident," McKie said. "We haven't lost at home yet. We feel like we have the advantage and we just have to ride the momentum."
The Demon Deacons also opened with 12 consecutive home wins in 2007-08, and haven't started a season with 13 straight home wins since finishing 16-0 at home in 2004-05.
Wake Forest has lost nine of its last 10 games against top five teams, though it toppled then-No. 2 Miami 80-65 at home on Feb. 23. The Demon Deacons lost to then-No. 2 Kansas 87-78 on Nov. 28 in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Syracuse won the only previous meeting 74-67 in the preseason NIT championship on Nov. 23, 2001.