Notre Dame to Battle Syracuse

Two road losses have put the Notre Dame men's basketball team in a hole. The Big East, reconfigured to 16 teams before the start of the season, has a few heavyweights at the top of the league and many solid squads in between. Anytime a win can be picked up, especially on the road, it has to be snatched up.

The Irish, to this date, have not been able to score that huge win away from home. A schedule that sent them on the road to Pittsburgh, where the Panthers have lost only five times since opening up the Peterson Events Center in 2003, and to DePaul did not do them any favors. Notre Dame lost both games and now sits at 0-2 in the rugged conference.

The good news? Four of the next five games are at the Joyce Center. The Irish (9-4) will get a chance at their first Big East win on Wednesday night as they welcome in 24th ranked Syracuse. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and ESPN2 will carry the game live. The Orange bring a 10-game winning streak into South Bend and it'll be the last chance for Notre Dame fans to see senior guard Gerry McNamara. Syracuse and the Irish, after meeting twice every year since 1999, meet only once this season. Notre Dame will be looking to avoid their second 0-3 start in the school's 11-year affiliation with the conference.

For Notre Dame, the trip home lets the team recover from a 63-57 loss to the Blue Demons last Saturday afternoon. After trailing early, the Irish had tied the game at 53-53 but could not overtake DePaul in the closing minutes. Colin Falls led all scorers with 26 points and is now averaging 12.6 points per game on the year. Chris Quinn chipped in with 16 points and still leads the team with a 16.3 PPG average. Torin Francis is pulling down 9.3 RPG to go along with almost 13 points a contest but Notre Dame has struggled to find a consistent low post player to compliment the senior big man. It led head coach Mike Brey to joke after the DePaul loss that he might hold tryouts for a center.

The opponent on Wednesday night has had the Irish's number as of late. Syracuse has won seven of the last eight times over Notre Dame, including two last season. Those seven losses were by a combined 37 points. That equals out to a difference of 5.3 points per defeat. The last win for the Irish over the Orange was back in January of 2001. In the two contests last year, Notre Dame shot 16-of-53 (30 percent) from three-point range against Syracuse's staple 2-3 zone.

The Orange won their Big East opener this past weekend, defeating South Florida 63-57 to notch their 10th straight win in improving to 13-2 on the season. Their only losses are to second-ranked and unbeaten Florida and mighty mid-major power Bucknell, who upset Kansas in last year's NCAA Tournament. This is an usually young team for Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim. Only one senior (McNamara) plays more than 10 minutes.

McNamara leads all Syracuse scorers by racking up 16.6 PPG but has struggled with his field goal percentage. The senior guard is shooting only 32 percent from the field and from three-point land. Demetris Nichols, a 6-8 forward, is scoring 15.3 PPG while 6-9 big man Terrence Roberts has amassed 11.9 PPG and 8.6 RPG. Freshman guard Eric Devendorf has also been a key factor in the Orange's success with a 9.7 PPG average.


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