Syracuse needs D to step up against Missouri

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The University of Syracuse men's basketball team will face its first ranked nationally-ranked opponent on Monday when No. 13/13 Missouri invades the Carrier Dome at 7:00 p.m.

Although the Orangemen lead the all-time series 3-1, they will need to step up their play if they hope to pull off the upset. The Orangemen are very talented offensively, but two games in the Big East have taught them that teams such as Colgate and Binghamton are not known for their defense for a reason.

The ‘Cuse is still the same team that shot 49 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc during a series of seven games where it finished 7-0. Defense is the hallmark of good teams, however, and although Syracuse has yet to face the cream of the Big East crop, the change from their earlier opponents is substantial.

Considering the improvement in the defenses they have faced in the past two games, however, there has been no significant drop-off in shooting. Against Seton Hall, the Orange shot 50 percent from the field as well as from three-point land. The real problem for the Orangemen in this game was their defense.

They allowed numerous easy shots for The Hall and fell into foul trouble in the second half. The Pirates found success by penetrating the Syracuse 2-3 zone to the foul line, drawing the back line of the defense up, and dumping passes down to their big men for easy lay- ups.

At many times, it seemed as if The Hall's freshman center, Kelly Whitney (team- high 20 points), was invisible to the SU big men, for he often stood uncontested behind the defense, next to the basket.

When the Pirates' big men did miss, they pounded Syracuse on the offensive glass for 13 offensive rebounds. They out-rebounded the Orange 32-29 in the game. As the second half wore on, foul trouble played a large role, as the Orangemen were forced to find alternative scoring threats when Carmelo Anthony picked up his fourth foul.

They also turned to Jeremy McNeil on the defensive end when Craig Forth was whistled with his fourth. Luckily, McNeil did the job with three blocks, while Kueth Duany and Gerry McNamara picked up the slack offensively. The story was the same against Boston College. Despite five players picking up four or more fouls, the Orange once again shot around 50 percent (49.2%), although they struggled from long distance at 23.5 percent. Once again, defense proved to be the key.

While The Orangemen had several spurts where they showed signs of brilliance, such as the 13-0 run that put them out in front 17- 4 at 13:22, they gave struggled getting back on defense. These difficulties cost ‘Cuse the lead before they rallied to 82-74 victory. For the second straight game, Syracuse utilized a press when they were behind to rally to victory. Coach Jim Boeheim was please with the effort. "We got two steals against Seton Hall and that was the difference between being even and being ahead. Tonight, we were able to get a couple steals off the press and almost got a couple more. We did a great job on the press."

The Orangemen have only been out-shot in one game this season, the opening loss to Memphis, November 14. Riding a 10-game winning streak since that initial setback, the Orange have plenty of momentum going into their first big test of the season. Syracuse won its last meeting with the Tigers 84-82 in the 2000 Great Alaska Shootout. Duke disciple Quin Snyder has built a strong team, however, so the Orangemen will have their work cut out. The way the Orange have shot recently, however, if they can cut down on their turnovers and get off enough shots, they will pull it out.

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