In his first season at the helm of the Marquette Golden Eagles, head coach Buzz Williams' group was behind until 3:27 left in regulation and, at one point, down by as many as 10, yet came from behind to force overtime. Syracuse's Andy Rautins and Jonny Flynn took over in the extra period, however, and the Orange prevailed 86-79.
Meeting for the second time under Williams in the 2009-10 season, the Golden Eagles lost again to the Orange, this time 76-71. Tied at the break, behind on more than one occasion by 16 points, Marquette came within three with eight seconds to go, but Syracuse held on.
A little over a year since their last meeting, Williams finally achieved his first win over the Orange as the Golden Eagles' leader by almost the same score he lost by in the previous contest, winning 76-70. Up by 11 at the half, Marquette would never give up the advantage, despite Syracuse tying the game three times.
Williams' squad would meet the Orange again in the NCAA Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio. Their third-round match-up in the East Region would result in another victory for the Golden Eagles, 66-62, bringing Williams to a .500 record versus the Orange. Marquette was the lower seed at 11, facing No. 3 Syracuse. However, despite losing the lead five times in the second half of their postseason match, the Golden Eagles proved to be the better of the two that night, despite a pesky Dion Waiters, who gave the Orange the advantage three of those five times.
But, on January 7th of last year, the Syracuse squad led by head coach Jim Boeheim placed the advantage back in their favor over Williams' bunch with a 73-66 win inside the Carrier Dome. Williams and the Golden Eagles did not take the loss quietly by any means, though. Down 37-19 at the break, Marquette got as close as two points with 4:52 remaining before eventually falling to a 73-66 defeat.
In each of Williams' five matches with the Orange, his Golden Eagles have been a menace in the second half, peeling back Orange leads no matter how large their deficits are.
Marquette also forces Syracuse to turn the ball over. Over the five games Williams has coached for the Golden Eagles against the Orange, Syracuse is averaging a little over 16 turnovers per game. They lowest number of turnovers versus Williams' squad was 13 and highest 22 in this five-game span. As a result, Orange sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams must do a better job of taking care of the ball than he has throughout the season. He has at least three turnovers in 19 of Syracuse's 27 games so far.
For the upcoming contest in Wisconsin, Williams returns seven of nine players who participated in last year's match at the Dome. Those two players who are no longer on his roster, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom were the top two scoring leaders against the Orange in 2012.
Outside of Crowder and Johnson-Odom, the other three members of last season's starting rotation (Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, and Junior Cadougan) are all intact and are Williams' top scorers, in that respective order.
This will be, barring a match-up in the Big East Tournament, where they have never met, the final time the Golden Eagles and the Orange will join together on the court in their short-lived conference competition.
A win by either side is the difference between dipping to third or lower in the conference or still having an opportunity to claim the top seed heading into Madison Square Garden.
For Buzz, it is a chance to even the score between himself and Boeheim in their face-off finale.