Orange Meet Mountaineers

The Orangemen are on a roll and would like to keep it going Tuesday night at West Virginia (14-11, 6-8), the toughest place to play behind the RAC in the BIG EAST, according to coach Jim Boeheim.<br><br>

Syracuse (19-6, 9-5) is coming off a huge upset victory at Pittsburgh, where the Panthers had won 40 straight games, thanks to an incredible defensive effort. Now the Orangemen will need to bring the same defensive intensity as they head into the WVU Coliseum, where the Mountaineers are 11-3 this season.

With the win over Pitt, Syracuse solidified its place in the NCAA tournament, but there is still work to be done. With UConn coming to the Carrier Dome on Sunday for the last regular season game, a loss to West Virginia will kill any momentum the Orangemen have gained during their three-game winning streak. Add to that the fact that Syracuse is gunning for its seventh straight 20-win season, its 26th under Jim Boeheim, not to mention sole possession of fourth place in the BIG EAST, and you can see there is a lot riding on this game.

Currently, the Orangemen are tied with Seton Hall for the fourth spot, and subsequent bye in the BIG EAST Tournament. Seton Hall holds the tiebreaker with the victory over the Orangemen earlier this season, so Syracuse needs this victory to jump ahead in the standings.

West Virginia has dropped three straight and has played without their star junior Drew Schifino for most of the season. The Mountaineers rank eighth in the nation in blocked shots average at 5.9 rejections per contest, led by D'Or Fischer, who ranks sixth in Division I, blocking 3.8 shots per game. He is also the team's leading scorer (10.2 ppg) and rebounder (6.3 rpg). Sophomore Kevin Pittsnogle, who was a member of the All-BIG EAST Rookie Team last season, ranks second on the team in scoring with 10.1 ppg.

As usual, the Orangemen need Gerry McNamara to get going again. He had just nine points on 1-of-9 shooting against Pitt, continuing his season-long slump until a clutch three-pointer dropped for him in the overtime.

Hakim Warrick, the model for consistency, had 17 points and eight boards against Pitt and is good for similar numbers against WVU.

Syracuse needs to occupy themselves with defending the two 6-foot-11 centers WVU puts on the floor together. Fischer and Pittsnogle will give the 2-3 zone trouble, unless Forth and McNeil decide to show up and play defense.

The Orangemen swept both games from West Virginia in 2002-03.

Cuse Nation Top Stories