DePaul vs. No. 1 Syracuse Game Preview

The Blue Demons welcome the top-ranked team in the nation to open up Big East conference play at Allstate Arena on New Year's Day. We preview the game and talk with DePaul coach Oliver Purnell and his team in this report.

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DePaul Blue Demons vs. #1 Syracuse Orange – Sunday, January 1st, 4:00 p.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois

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Game Preview

DePaul sophomore point guard Brandon Young was asked what his plans are for New Year's.

"To get a win against Syracuse," Young replied.

What about plans before New Year's Day?

"To get prepared for Syracuse," said Young.

Nobody could ever accuse Young of not being focused on this next opponent.

DePaul (9-3, 0-0) has grand hopes to ring in the new year by knocking off a top ranked opponent for the first time since 1952.

Syracuse (14-0, 1-0) has done a lot to earn their top national ranking. This may be one of the deepest team's that Jim Boeheim has ever had at Syracuse.

"There is just not a lot of weaknesses," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. "They're very deep, which is one of the most concerning things, because we like to wear people down. They go eight, nine, or ten deep and there's just not much of a falloff at all."

Not only does DePaul have to deal with Syracuse's depth, but they've also got the Syracuse zone defense to worry about. The Orange are coming off a dominating 75-49 home win over Seton Hall. What really stood out in that game was the performance of sophomore center Fab Melo. Melo scored a career-high 12 points and blocked 10 shots, which is a new school-record for blocks in a game.

"Fab Melo may be the biggest difference in their team this year from last year," said Purnell. "He's in much better shape. He can be dominant on the defensive end of the floor anchoring that zone defense. They stack that zone defense with long, athletic guys that can get their hands on balls. When you've got a guy like Melo in the back, it makes it difficult."

The Blue Demons haven't been very strong on the interior. They did face a dominating big man earlier in the season in Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, but he doesn't compare to the 7 foot, 244 lb. force that is Melo.

"Defensively he can affect the game," said Purnell. "You've got to be smart when you go up against him. You don't take it right to the teeth of a shot blocker. We've got to go strong against him and possibly get him in foul trouble. "

Taking care of the basketball will be very important for the Blue Demons. Syracuse leads the nation in steals at 11.6 thefts per game.

Syracuse leads the Big East in scoring offense at 80.3 points per game and scoring margin at a plus 22 ppg. With Melo on the floor, the Orange also lead the league in blocked shots with 7.6 blocks per game. They also lead the conference in turnover margin at plus 8.43 per game.

Anytime you host the number one ranked team, there is bound to be some excitement. Guys get geeked up at the prospect of playing Syracuse.

"I'm excited," said Young. " It's my first time going up against a team that's number one in the country, but I can't get too excited because we still got a game to play. So, we just come out and play hard and see what the outcome is going to be."

When DePaul travelled to Syracuse last season, the outcome wasn't a good one. DePaul lost 107-59 in a game where Blue Demon forward Cleveland Melvin was sidelined with a sprained left thumb injury.

It was the most lopsided game in Big East history. It was as though the Blue Demons didn't show up for that game. Syracuse shot an amazing 71.4% from the floor, a ridiculous 77.8% shooting from beyond the arc, outebounded DePaul by a 39-22 margin, and scored 41 points off of fast breaks.

Melvin has been looking forward to this game for quite awhile.

"I'm very excited," said Melvin. "Last year I didn't get a chance to play Syracuse. I was hurt. I'm very excited this year to play them. I'm just ready and focused."

Young has put last season's game completely out of his mind.

"I'm not going to try to think about that game," said Young. "That's the past and this is the future. This is a new era and we'll be ready for the game on Sunday."

The Last Time

On March 5, 2011 at the Carrier Dome, the 12th ranked Orange sent the Blue Demons packing in a 107-59 defeat on their Senior Day. Syracuse shot 71.4% from the floor, 77.8% from beyond the arc, and 90.9% from the free throw line.

Five players finished in double-figures for Syracuse. Senior Rick Jackson recorded 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in the winning effort. Point guard Scoop Jardine had 14 points and eight assists. Freshman Dion Waiters scored 12 points, C.J. Fair had 11 points, and Fab Melo added a season-high 10 points.

Tony Freeland led the Blue Demons with 25 points and six rebounds. Freshman Moses Morgan also scored 16 points.

Syracuse Roster


1 Michael Carter-Williams G 6-5 176 Fr. Hamilton, Mass. / St. Andrews School, R.I.

2 Nick Resavy G 6-2 201 Sr. West Milford, N.J. / West Milford

3 Dion Waiters G 6-4 215 So. Philadelphia, Pa. / Burlington Life Center Academy, N.J.

4 Nolan Hart G 5-10 152 So. Albany, N.Y. / Albany Academy

5 C.J. Fair F 6-8 203 So. Baltimore, Md. / Baltimore City College H.S. / Brewster Academy

10 Trevor Cooney G 6-4 185 Fr. Wilmington, Del. / Sanford School

11 Scoop Jardine G 6-2 190 Sr. Philadelphia, Pa. / Neumann-Goretti

12 Baye Moussa Keita C 6-10 213 So. Saint Louis, Senegal / Oak Hill Academy

13 Griffin Hoffmann G 6-0 178 Jr. New York, N.Y. / York Prep

14 Matt Lyde-Cajuste F 6-4 205 Jr. Mt. Vernon, N.Y. / Iona Prep

20 Brandon Triche G 6-4 205 Jr. Jamesville, N.Y. / Jamesville-DeWitt

21 Mookie Jones F 6-6 220 Jr. Peekskill, N.Y. / Peekskill

23 Russ DeRemer G 6-4 210 So. Wrentham, Mass. / Xaverian Brothers/St. Andrew's/Worcester Academy

24 Brandon Reese G 5-11 160 Sr. Davie, Fla. / Pine Crest School

25 Rakeem Christmas F 6-9 222 Fr. Philadelphia, Pa. / Academy of the New Church

32 Kris Joseph F 6-7 210 Sr. Montreal, Quebec / Archbishop Carroll (D.C.)

33 Albert Nassar F 6-6 195 Fr. Stuart, Fla. / South Fork

34 Matt Tomaszewski F 6-8 215 Sr. Seabrook, N.H. / Holderness

43 James Southerland F 6-8 210 Jr. Bayside, N.Y. / Cardoza/Notre Dame Prep (Mass.)

51 Fab Melo C 7-0 244 So. Juiz de Forz, Brazil / Sagemont

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