St. Bonaventure-Syracuse Preview

BY foxsports • December 21, 2009

Syracuse is off to its best start in a decade. Given the Orange's history against their next opponent, the hot start looks likely to continue.

No. 5 Syracuse seeks to improve to 11-0 on Saturday when it returns from a six-day layoff to host St. Bonaventure, which has never won in the Carrier Dome.

The Orange have been perhaps the nation's most impressive team early this season, winning all 10 of their games by double-digit margins even though they've faced three opponents ranked 13th or higher. Last week, Syracuse beat then-No. 10 Florida 85-73 and followed that up Sunday with a 75-51 victory over St. Francis of New York.

The impressive start - the best for the Orange since they opened 19-0 in 1999-2000 - has earned Syracuse its highest ranking since it was No. 4 on Jan. 24, 2005.

Syracuse's offense has been nothing short of phenomenal. The Orange are averaging 88.3 points and shooting 55.2 percent from the field - easily the highest percentage in the nation. The NCAA record is 57.2 percent by Missouri in 1979-80.

Coach Jim Boeheim's club has shot above 50 percent in each of its last nine games, including 53.7 percent in the win over St. Francis. Despite that, the Orange weren't satisfied with their effort Sunday, when they turned the ball over 16 times and only led by 12 at halftime before pulling away from the Terriers.

"We were playing, but we weren't playing our best,'' said junior forward Rick Jackson, who had 11 points - nine in the game's first 6 1/2 minutes. "It's an early game and they came out and jumped on us.

"You can't let teams like that hang around. You just give them too much confidence when you do that.''

The Bonnies (6-3) may own a winning record, but history gives them little cause for confidence. St. Bonaventure is winless in 14 trips to the Carrier Dome and 3-22 in the all-time series. This is the first meeting between the teams since an 82-70 home victory for Syracuse on Dec. 30, 2006.

Orange senior Andy Rautins started that game and scored five points in 22 minutes. Rautins is averaging 10.1 points this season, but has failed to reach double figures in four of his last five games, including a six-point effort against St. Francis.

Arinze Onuaku had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead Syracuse on Sunday, and the senior center is shooting 67.1 percent.

St. Bonaventure is 0-2 on the road but seeking its third straight win overall. The Bonnies beat Savannah State 79-47 last Saturday behind 18 points from Andrew Nicholson. The sophomore - last season's Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year - is averaging team highs of 15.3 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 61.8 percent.

Another sophomore, guard Michael Davenport, has broken into the starting lineup for the last two games and totaled 15 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in those wins. He's averaging 4.5 assists in the Bonnies' six victories.

"Basically, it comes down to me being more confident," Davenport said. "Last year, I was always looking over my shoulder and this year I know the system and I am more relaxed."

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