Pregame: Northeastern at Syracuse

The Syracuse Orange take to the court at 1:00 PM on Sunday afternoon following a seven day layoff for the Christmas holidays. Sunday's contest against the Northeastern Huskies is the final non-conference game of the season so it will be the last opportunity for Boeheim to ready his charges for Big East play.

Northeastern Season to Date: Bill Coen's team has played an absolutely brutal schedule thus far. Although their overall record is not impressive (4-6), their only blowout loss was at the hands of a very good Rhode Island team. They have played 8 of their 10 games on the road and have single digit losses at Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, and Boston College. Needless to say, this is a dangerous team that the ‘Cuse cannot afford to take lightly.

Meet the Huskies: Team balance is the primary focus for Coen, who stresses a disciplined playing style and ball-control offense that likes to keep the scores below 70 points. Three sophomores and one freshman comprise the top four scorers, all of whom average over 9 points per game. This is pretty impressive considering the team posts only about 65 points on average.

Sophomore swingman Matt Janning is the team's best offensive player at 16.4 ppg. Manny Adako, a 6-8 SO F, is second in scoring at 11.1 ppg and he also hauls in nearly 5 rebounds as well. Nkem Ojougboh, a 6-9 SO C, is the Huskies' best athlete. He started the season on a rebounding tear, hauling in 37 boards in the first 3 games before coming back to earth recently. Still, his 8.3 rpg average tops the team.

Another talented player to watch is freshman Chaisson Allen, who offers very good size at the point (6-4). He's not much of an outside shooter but he has packed the stat sheet to the tune of 9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 5.0 apg thus far. Experience is provided by a pair of JR forwards: Matt Smith (6-6) and Eugene Spates (6-8). The duo have combined to make 21 three point attempts on the season, but neither shoots a particularly high percentage.

Game Outlook: The key for Syracuse will be to force tempo and make Northeastern outscore them to win. The Huskies are not a very good offensive team. Unlike most of the mid-majors that have visited the Dome this year, they shoot poorly from the field (40.5%) and from the three point line (27.8%). Outside of Ojougboh, they are not a particularly good rebounding team, but they play pretty solid defense and force more turnovers than they commit. If Syracuse can control the tempo with their more athletic players, this should result in a fairly easy victory.

Boeheim's focus on Sunday will be to continue preparing the support players for their roles in Big East action. He will once again make sure that Kristof Ongenaet , Scoop Jardine, and Sean Williams get ample time to show what they are capable of prior to the start of Big East play.

Ongenaet is coming off his best game of the season when he nearly posted a double-double against Cornell with 9 points and 10 rebounds. Although the level of competition was far below that of a typical Big East opponent, Ongenaet's hustle and willingness to mix it up could make him a valuable commodity later in the season. Boeheim will no doubt need to see more of this before he becomes a permanent fixture in the rotation.

The loss of Eric Devendorf for the remainder of the season also necessities an increase in playing time for Scoop Jardine. The freshman from Philly hasn't been much of a scoring threat in his first two collegiate starts, but he looks more comfortable on the court and has started to cut down on the foolish turnovers that plagued him early in the year.

Prediction: The Orange come out a little sluggish after the long holiday layover but eventually get the running game going behind Flynn and Greene. The interior duo of Onuaku and Jackson prove too much to handle for Northeastern and the Orange go on to post to solid victory. Syracuse 79 Northeastern 67


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