Orange out to snap 4-game skid against No. 6 UConn
Syracuse has never lost five consecutive games under coach Jim Boeheim, but at the midpoint of the Orange's Big East schedule, that mark is in jeopardy.
After an 18-0 start, Syracuse (5-4 Big East) has lost four straight for only the third time in Boeheim's Hall of Fame career. It has dropped from No. 3 in the national rankings to No. 17 in a span of two weeks.
''I'm not in a good mood,'' Boeheim said Tuesday. ''Hopefully, that'll change.''
The chance for a mood swing comes Wednesday at No. 6 Connecticut (17-3, 5-3), where the Orange have had little success. The Huskies have beaten them seven straight times (four in Hartford, three in Storrs). The last Syracuse road win in the series came 12 years ago, a 59-42 decision on Feb. 1, 1999.
''Come tomorrow night, we're going to be fired up,'' said Syracuse forward Rick Jackson, who's averaging 13.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. ''We've got something to prove.''
It won't be easy.
UConn, which had a six-game winning streak snapped in a 79-78 double-overtime loss at home to Louisville on Saturday, will be Syracuse's third top-10 opponent in five games. The Orange have lost to Pittsburgh and Marquette on the road and Villanova and Seton Hall at home, and haven't led in a game since Jackson's layup put Syracuse up 11-10 early against the Wildcats on Jan. 22.
For those scoring at home, that's a span of 114 minutes, 16 seconds.
But there are signs of hope. In the 76-70 loss to Marquette on Saturday, the Orange shot 15 of 22 (68.2 percent) in the second half, hit 6 of 13 (46.2 percent) from beyond the arc overall, scored five more baskets than the Golden Eagles and had 22 assists on 28 scores.
''We were finally moving the ball, playing really good offensively,'' guard Scoop Jardine said. ''I think that was our best half throughout this whole year. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win. But we can carry that over into this game.''
Syracuse tied the game three times after trailing by 11 at halftime, but was victimized in the final 2 minutes by two long, contested 3-pointers that Marquette converted as the shot clock was nearing zero.
Plus, Marquette shot 19 more free throws than Syracuse, outscoring the Orange 24-8 at the line.
''It's frustrating,'' Jackson said, ''but the only thing you can do is fight through it.''
To Jackson, it almost seems as if the officials are looking the other way when he has the ball down low and is being double- and triple-teamed. During the losing streak, Jackson has shot only seven free throws despite playing all but 5 minutes.
But good players, and good teams, find a way to get through that. Jackson and Co. know that.
And Boeheim, meanwhile, knows how to deal with slumps. His record, after all, wouldn't be 847-297 in 35 years if he didn't.
''If we lose, the meetings are a little longer,'' assistant coach Rob Murphy said. ''We may watch the game right after as a staff, and then we'll come in in the morning and watch the game again, talk about what we need to correct going into the next game.
''We address the team right before practice and Coach will touch on it, but most importantly he'll tell the guys to let it go. It's over. Let's move to the next game. It's tough for me, though, and it takes the next win for me to start to get over that last loss. I personally can't let it go. But we let it go as coaches. We don't bring it to the team.''
In an effort to beat the treacherous winter storm bearing down on the Northeast, the Orange were to board a charter flight after Tuesday's practice for the short trip to Hartford. And who knows? Maybe a change of travel means a change of fortune.