If Syracuse is going to remain one of the country’s three unbeaten teams, it might need a better offensive performance against Miami than it had three weeks ago in the teams’ first matchup.
The second-ranked Orange head south Saturday to face the Hurricanes with hopes of matching their second-best start in school history – and cracking 50 points.
In one of their closest games of the season, the Orange (18-0, 5-0 ACC) beat defensive-minded Miami 49-44 on Jan. 4. Syracuse shot 36.2 percent while Miami managed just 40 field-goal attempts and didn’t have a player score in double figures. The Hurricanes’ matchup defense gave the Orange fits, though they still managed to recover from a six-point second-half deficit.
"Their matchup is very good," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said after the slow-paced win. "Matchup defense is probably the hardest to play against, especially when you have a lot of length through the whole lineup like they do. It’s very hard to play against. They have big guys around the basket and they have big guards defending the perimeter, too."
The Orange had another five-point battle their last time out, a 59-54 home win over then-No. 22 Pittsburgh last Saturday. They trailed inside two minutes, but Tyler Ennis bailed them out with six points in the final 1:48. The freshman point guard finished with 16 points, and the performance prompted Boeheim to compare his high-pressure success to former Syracuse star freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara.
"It’s an honor, especially coming from coach," said Ennis, who played 40 minutes for the second straight game. "It’s really just the perfect situation. I have a lot of teammates who have a lot of confidence and can make plays, and they make me look really good."
Ennis, fourth on the team with 11.9 points per game, has reached double figures in all five ACC games along with C.J. Fair, the team’s leading scorer at 16.8 points per game.
Syracuse announced Tuesday it’ll have to do without sophomore DaJuan Coleman for the rest of the season due to left knee surgery. Coleman, who last played Jan. 7, averaged 4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.0 minutes in the Orange’s three-man rotation at center.
Defensively, Syracuse has gotten along just fine in the ACC with or without him, holding opponents to a league-low 50.8 points per game on 40.7 percent shooting.
Miami (10-8, 2-4) has bettered that, limiting ACC foes to a conference-low 36.4 percent. No. 18 Duke, though, shot 42.9 percent in handing the Hurricanes a 67-46 home loss Wednesday. Miami shot 35.4 percent and ranks 14th in conference play at 38.8 percent while scoring a league-low 53.7 points per game.
Still, coach Jim Larranaga expected more in his team’s first of consecutive games against high-profile programs as it fell to 0-3 at home versus conference opponents.
"I’m a little bit – maybe a lot – surprised by the way we played," Larranaga said. "We were like deer in the headlights with all the attention this game got, and all the celebrities that showed up. I think we froze in that environment."
Donnavan Kirk, one of two Hurricanes scoring in double figures at 10.0 points per game, led the way with 11 while leading scorer Rion Brown (13.4) was held to two points.
The Orange have won three straight against the Hurricanes and the last four meetings in Miami.