Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Syracuse Looks to Snap Two Game Skid Against Seton Hall

Syracuse is struggling. That's a given. The Orangemen, who won their first 18 games of the season, have now dropped two consecutive Big East games against two top tier teams in the nation (then #4 Pittsburgh and #7 Villanova).

Seemingly the poster child for the past two defeats is Scoop Jardine. Scoop has combined to make 5 of his last 21 shot attempts (23.8%) from the floor in the past two games, and watched the final 6 minutes of the Villanova game on the bench. He has pulled down zero rebounds in the same stretch and scored a mere 2 points in 22 minutes against Villanova (1-8 from the field).

It's clear Syracuse is going to need to get their mojo back. If a person was faced with a long dry-spell or felt as if they were lacking in mojo, they would head out and try to track down a slump breaker. Thankfully for Syracuse, they won't have to look too far. And thankfully, we're looking at the Seton Hall Pirates.

Like an ugly girl at a party, The Pirates enter the Carrier Dome tonight at 7PM with an overall record of 8-12, and a very poor 2-6 mark in Big East play. Since Syracuse defeated Seton Hall in Newark, NJ on January 8th 61-56, the Pirates have gone 1-3, and have lost three games in a row (at Pittsburgh and two home games against Georgetown and Rutgers). Seton Hall may very well be our slump breaker.

The Orangemen need to treat this game as a springboard. Use it as an opportunity to get their legs back under them, get their confidence back, and get back some swagger that the team hasn't had since watching Kris Joseph go down with a concussion in the game against Cincinnati.

Since the tangling with Syracuse, the Pirates have gotten their leading scorer Jeremy Hazell (6'5" 188 pounds) back from a hand injury and a gun shot wound. Although Seton Hall is 1-3 since his return, Hazell is averaging 15.5 points per contest. Hazell is averaging 19.1 points per game on the season (he missed 13 games), and had he been in action against Syracuse 17 days ago, the outcome might have been very different. In the seven games Hazell has played, he has failed to score in double digits just once, January 15th in Pittsburgh, when he was held to 9 points on 3 of 13 shooting.

When we last saw the Pirates Herb Pope (6'8" 236 pounds) pulled down 20 rebounds and scored 14 points. It seems as if that game kicked some life in Pope, as he's averaged 15.25 points and 10.25 rebounds since January 8th. The 20 rebounds against Cuse was Pope's season high, as were the 16 points he dropped on Georgetown on January 18th.

In the last meeting between the two squads Pope and Jeff Robinson (6'6" 230 pounds) combined to out-rebound the entire Syracuse Orangemen basketball team. Robinson pulled down 14 boards and added 17 points to help keep the Pirates in the ball game. Although Robinson hasn't been pulling down rebounds at nearly the same pace, he has been scoring the ball, averaging 12.8 points per game over his last four.

For Syracuse, they absolutely and desperately need to get their guards going. Syracuse can not afford another stinker from the guards, not just on offense but defensively as well. They must help out rebounding the basketball. It can not be all Rick Jackson underneath. And the same goes for James Southerland.

Southerland had an impressive 8 rebounds against Cincinnati, however in the following two games (both losses) James has grabbed only 1 rebound in a combined 54 minutes of action. With Southerland standing 6'8" I'm not even sure how that's possible. He has to get involved in rebounding the basketball otherwise he's going to see his minutes dwindle in favor of a player who can rebound the ball, a player like C.J. Fair.

C.J. had a season high 9 rebounds in the loss to Pittsburgh while helping fill the void left by an injured Kris Joseph. Fair also scored a season high 16 points in 36 minutes. However, on Saturday Fair played just 10 minutes and had 1 rebound. Not great numbers, but he should have seen more time off the bench, especially with Syracuse getting beat on so many rebounds late in the 2nd half.

Kris Joseph returned from his concussion to score a team high 23 points on 8 of 15 shooting Saturday against Nova. He made his first 4 three-point attempts before missing his final 3 tries of the game from long distance. While he had just 3 rebounds in 34 minutes, expect to see that number increase as he is averaging over 5 boards per game.

Tip-off tonight is at 7PM on SNY and as usual, be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for full recap and analysis.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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