Rutgers-Syracuse Preview

Recent struggles haven’t worried Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

Brandon Triche’s recent play may be providing some comfort.

Triche looks to continue his superb individual play Saturday as

No. 17 Syracuse attempts to continue its home dominance of

Rutgers.

The Orange (21-6, 8-6 Big East) have dropped six of nine

following an 18-0 start, and avoided a four-game home losing streak

by beating West Virginia 63-52 at the Carrier Dome on Monday.

Boeheim attributes the losses not entirely to his own team’s

weakness, but to playing in the hyper-competitive Big East.

“I think people think the season’s over. The season’s over when

we play 18 games in the league,” Boeheim said. “We lost four games

to teams in the top 15 in the country. I think if we keep things in

perspective, we’re probably a little bit ahead at this stage of the

season. Sometimes I think we need to keep perspective a little

bit.

“You can lose every game in this league, but I don’t think you

can win every game in this league.”

Triche’s emergence is another reason Boeheim doesn’t seem too

concerned. The sophomore, known for his strong defensive play,

followed up a season-high 21-point effort in last Saturday’s 73-69

loss to No. 16 Louisville with 20 points against the

Mountaineers.

He shot 56.0 percent over those two games, including 6 of 14

from 3-point range.

“It takes a year for most college players to get accustomed to

what the game’s about,” Boeheim said. “He had a solid freshman

year. He’s making the normal progression. It takes most kids into

their sophomore year at least to get comfortable. I think Brandon

is ahead of schedule.”

Triche made 5 of 9 shots – 2 of 3 3-pointers – for 12 points in

an 81-65 win at Rutgers (13-12, 4-9) on Jan. 13, 2010, as Syracuse

ran its winning streak in this series to 10.

The Orange are 36-9 all-time against the Scarlet Knights,

including 21-1 at home. They’ve won 14 straight home meetings since

a loss in February 1975, the season before Boeheim took the

helm.

A letdown is still on the Syracuse coach’s mind, however.

“Rutgers can play with anyone,” Boeheim said, citing Rutgers’

stunning 77-76 win over then-ninth-ranked Villanova on Feb. 9. “I

saw them beat Villanova. They play great basketball. Even if you

play well you can have a problem. That is just the nature of the

league and you have to be ready for that.”

The Scarlet Knights have lost five of six, but the last four

losses have come by an average of 4.2 points. They dropped another

close contest last Saturday, falling 69-64 to Seton Hall. Coach

Mike Rice wasn’t pleased with Rutgers’ 18 turnovers.

“You finally get people to say nice things about you and this is

how you respond,” he said. “Very disappointing as far as that goes.

We build a little momentum and just didn’t have any fight.”

Rutgers has turned the ball over 42 times in its last two

meetings with Syracuse, which ranks second in the Big East with an

average of 8.7 steals after getting 13 against the

Mountaineers.

Scarlet Knights senior forward Jonathan Mitchell is averaging

23.5 points on 61.4-percent shooting over his last four games,

making 16 of 27 3-pointers in that stretch.

Syracuse held Mitchell to nine points last season.