Friday, February 18, 2011

Syracuse and Rutgers Set to Tangle in Carrier Dome


The Syracuse Orangemen, looking to string together a few wins down the stretch of the Big East regular season, will play host to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday afternoon at 4PM on MSG.

The Scarlet Knights enter the Carrier Dome sporting a very unimpressive 13-12 overall record and an equally disappointing conference record of 4-9. Rutgers has lost 5 of their last 6 Big East games, however the lone win was a huge upset victory over the Villanova Wildcats thanks to a 4-point play as time expired in the RAC on February 9th.

Rutgers average margin of defeat in the Big East Conference is a respectable 8.9 points, however they have played some close games against some of the top teams. The Scarlet Knights lost to Pittsburgh by a mere 3 points at home on January 29th and lost to St Johns on the road by 2 points at Carnesecca Arena on a Justin Brownlee layup with 4 seconds left. They also lost by 7 at Notre Dame and lost by 5 at home to Seton Hall.

With that in mind, Rutgers won't be a complete pushover for the Orangemen, who have struggled against weaker competition this year, particularly at home. Aside from the home blowout against Seton Hall, Syracuse has also narrowly defeated William & Mary by 3 points (W&M is 7-20 this season) and beat NC State by 6 points (Wolfpack are 4-7 this year in a weak ACC). Syracuse can not look past Rutgers on Saturday. It will take a complete 40 minute effort to earn the win.

Leading the Scarlet Knights in scoring this season is Jonathan Mitchell (6'7" 225 pounds) who averages 14.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. The senior out of Mount Vernon, NY has been lighting up the scoreboard the past 4 games, scoring over 20 points in each contest. His season high 25 points came in the win against Nova and is coming off a 24 point effort in the 5 point loss to Seton Hall on February 12th. In the last eight Big East games Mitchell is averaging 20 points per game.

Dane Miller (6'7" 215 pounds) and Gilvydas Biruta (6'8" 230 pounds) both average over 9 points per game for the Knights. Miller, a sophomore out of Henrietta, NY also averages 5.7 rebounds per game to go along with 9.3 points per affair. Miller is coming off a 0 point game against Seton Hall where he shot 0-4 from the floor, however he scored 12 points against Villanova on February 9th.

Gilvydas Biruta is a freshman hailing from Lithuania. In addition to his 9 points per game he also pulls down 5.2 boards per game. He had been struggling the past month or so, however he broke out for 18 points against Seton Hall on February 12th.

Clearly there's a lot of size on this Rutgers roster. Syracuse needs to be prepared to play a physical game on Saturday and not merely sleepwalk through the first half like they can be prone to.

Thankfully for the Orangemen, Brandon Triche has been stepping up lately and establishing himself as the go-to-guard for the Syracuse offense, alleviating some of the dependency on Rick Jackson. Additionally, Scoop Jardine finally got himself going last Saturday in Louisville, scoring 12 first half points on his way to a 20 point afternoon.

Now if we could only get Scoop's scoring to coincide with a big Syracuse victory we'd be in business. Tip off on Saturday is at 4PM and the game will be televised live on MSG. Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for a complete recap and analysis from all the action in the Carrier Dome. We will also be tweeting live emotions at @CuseConnection, so if you are into that sort of thing, be sure to give us a follow.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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