Monday, January 17, 2011

#3 Syracuse Orangemen and #4 Pittsburgh Panthers Face Off at Petersen Events Center


Tonight the #3 Syracuse Orangemen will face their toughest test of the season as they look to match the best start in school history. Syracuse, 18-0 (5-0 Big East) will travel to the Petersen Events Center to take on the #4 Pittsburgh Panthers (17-1, 5-0 Big East), just one win shy of the mark set by the 1999-2000 Orangemen that started their season 19-0.

Syracuse will be playing without leading scorer Kris Joseph, who suffered a concussion after being slammed to the floor during the first half of the Cincinnati game on Saturday. To add insult to injury, the Orangemen have lost 5 of their last 6 games at the Petersen Events Center, and Pittsburgh has lost just once in the last 51 games at the P.E.C. The Panthers have won 19 straight games at home and by an average of nearly 20 points.

With Joseph on the mend, Syracuse fans are expecting sophomore James Southerland to get the starting nod. Following Southerland off the bench will be freshman C.J. Fair as Syracuse looks to find a way to carry on without Joseph, who was averaging 18.4 points in his previous seven games prior to being knocked out of the Cincinnati game.

With the Orangemen down one of their core-four players in one of the most hostile buildings in the Big East, you cannot stress the importance of Rick Jackson. Pittsburgh is one of the most physical teams in the conference, and don't think that the Panthers won't start roughing up Jackson inside to try and bait him into taking a few early fouls.

The Panthers' know that Rick Jackson is the heart of this undefeated Syracuse squad, so expect to see them get physical with him early. Syracuse has been fortunate in their first 18 games to keep Rick Jackson out of foul trouble, the leading rebounder in the Big East, and Jackson has only been called for 4 fouls in a game twice so far this season. Once was against William & Mary and again in the first Big East game of the season against Providence.

In the scary event of seeing Rick Jackson in foul trouble, this Syracuse fan would not be surprised to see Mookie Jones pop off the bench for 3-5 minutes with Kris Joseph on the shelf. Mookie certainly has a lot to prove, and would certainly give as much as he has got if he could sniff the floor tonight.

Syracuse saw some signs of life out of freshman center Fab Melo on Saturday as well. In the second half Fab Melo went on a tear, after which he declared "I felt very comfortable out there today. I think I'll play even better the next game." This was after Melo scored 6 points blocked 4 shots and pulled down 4 boards. We are going to need Melo to do more than just "think" he'll play even better. We are going to need to see it if Syracuse wants to have a chance to remain undefeated tonight.

For the #4 Pittsburgh Panthers, junior Ashton Gibbs (6'2" 190 pounds) is leading the team averaging 16.3 points per game and is shooting 44.6% from 3-point range. Gibbs likes taking a lot of three pointers and knocked down a season high 5 threes twice so far this season (although both times he attempted 10 in the game). Gibbs has also scored a season high 24 points twice this year, and scored 22 points on Georgetown on January 12th.

Brad Wanamaker (6'4" 210 pounds) out of Philadelphia, PA is the 2nd leading scorer, averaging 12.8 points 5.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Wanamaker also shoots with 40.7% accuracy from beyond the arc, however he attempts much fewer long range shots than Gibbs. Brad Wanamaker scored a season high 24 points in the opening game of the season against URI and scored 21 points on December 11th in the team's lone loss to Tennessee.

Senior Gilbert Brown (6'6" 210 pounds) from Harrisburg, PA averages 11.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game for the Panthers. Although he doesn't attempt many 3-pointers, he managed to knock down 5 of 6 in Providence on January 4th and shoots 41.4% from behind the 3-point line. Brown had a season high 28 points on December 18th against Maryland-Eastern Shore (UMES) a team that is 4-12 this season. In the game he made 4 of 5 three point attempts.

The game featuring the #3 Syracuse Orangemen and #4 Pittsburgh Panthers is a part of ESPN's Big Monday, and tip-off will be at 7:30PM on ESPN. Check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com


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