Orange ready to start new streak
Syracuse’s winning streak was long, it was exciting, and it was
impressive. It’s also over.
That was the theme Thursday at practice, as the No. 3 Orange
(18-1, 5-1 Big East) continued preparations for No. 7 Villanova
(16-2, 4-1) on Saturday. With an 18-game run now in the past, it
was time to focus on the Wildcats. Period.
”We just lost. Guys are hungry,” senior forward Rick Jackson
said. ”We’re going to be fired up. The crowd is going to be crazy,
regardless, and the crowd’s on our side.”
Ah, yes, the crowd. A year ago, the Orange made a marketing push
to break the Carrier Dome record for largest attendance, and an
orange-clad throng of 34,616 turned out to spur Syracuse to a win
over the Wildcats.
It was an NCAA record for on-campus attendance at a college
basketball game. Seating was capped at that figure, making it the
first basketball sellout in Dome history. When the Wildcats visit
this time, they might be staring at another record crowd. The
university added seats and ticket sales were approaching 33,000 as
students staked out spots outside the gate Wednesday.
”’Nova, that’s always like a rivalry game, sort of like
Syracuse and Georgetown,” said Jackson, who has 12 double-doubles
this season. ”Over the years, it’s been a big game, big
environment. We just want to come out, get this win and kind of
redeem ourselves from the last loss, come out and play with a chip
on our shoulder.”
Syracuse’s streak ended Monday night with a 74-66 loss at No. 5
Pittsburgh in the raucous Petersen Events Center. The Orange played
without leading scorer Kris Joseph, who suffered a head injury last
Saturday against Cincinnati and did not travel with the team.
”It’s tough. You can’t dwell on it too much in the Big East.
It’s such a grind, this conference,” said former Syracuse star
Gerry McNamara, a graduate assistant this season. ”We took a lot
of positives from that game, if anything. We proved that we can
play from behind on the road against a tough opponent, and we did
it without one of our best players. If anything, there’s more
positives to take from that game than negatives.”
Joseph is recovering nicely and his mid-range jumper looked
sharp as he shot Thursday before taking part in his first practice
since his injury. Though his status is day-to-day, Joseph is
hopeful he will be able to play.
To make up for the loss of the 6-foot-7 Joseph, who averaged
19.5 points in the Orange’s first four Big East games, coach Jim
Boeheim gave sophomore James Southerland his first college start
and freshman C.J. Fair extended playing time vs. Pitt. Southerland
finished with eight points, four assists and no turnovers. Fair had
a season-high 16 points and nine rebounds.
”I didn’t expect to play 36 minutes,” Fair said. ”I was
prepared for it. Just playing that amount of minutes and
contributing the way I did gave me good confidence – and as far as
my teammates having confidence in me.”
Pitt scored 19 unanswered points to start the game as Nasir
Robinson repeatedly broke free in the heart of the Syracuse zone,
scoring the game’s first nine. The Orange missed their first 10
shots before Scoop Jardine hit a 3 at 11:59 to start a 17-0
comeback. Syracuse trailed by only four at halftime.
It should have been a one-point game at the break. Despite
having a foul to give in the final minute, the Orange didn’t use
it, then left Ashton Gibbs wide open, and Pitt’s most dangerous
outside threat hit a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left.
”Little things killed us,” said Jackson, a Philadelphia
native. ”We took some tough shots, we had some defensive
breakdowns, all key things that you can’t do when you’re away on
the road in a hostile environment and playing a top-five
Villanova is coming off a road loss, too. The Wildcats had an
11-game winning streak snapped Monday at No. 8 Connecticut. Corey
Fisher had a career-high 28 points, but Corey Stokes, their leading
scorer, was 0 for 6 from the field and finished with three points.
The 59 points were a season low and marked the first time in 51
games that Villanova failed to reach 60.
The Wildcats played that game without guard Dominic Cheek, who
has a sprained left knee. An MRI exam on Monday revealed no
additional damage. Cheek is questionable for Saturday.