Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The fourth-ranked Syracuse Orange look to continue their rise up the national rankings as they host the Binghamton Bearcats in a non-conference test at the Carrier Dome.
Based on early returns this probably won't be much of a test for the Orange. Binghamton enters play on Saturday sporting just a 2-6 overall record, though both wins have come on the road. Last time out the Bearcats edged out Mount Saint Mary's to end a four-game losing streak. Binghamton takes on Monmouth in the third part of a four-game road trip next.
After losing a number of big contributors off last year's Final Four team, Syracuse looked like it might fall back a bit this year. So far that has not been the case as the Orange roll into Saturday's matchup with a perfect 8-0 record. That mark was earned with emphasis on Tuesday as the Orange ran past a tough Indiana unit, 69-52 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Syracuse will face a long-time rival from its days in the Big East when it battles St. John's at Madison Square Garden next Sunday.
All four previous meetings between these teams have come at the Carrier Dome. All four of those meetings ended in Syracuse wins by an average margin of victory of 33.5 points.
Hot shooting in the second half allowed Binghamton to outlast Mount Saint Mary's. In the final 20 minutes the Bearcats connected on 68.2 percent of their attempts from the field. Making so many shots was necessary as the Bearcats had 17 fewer field goal attempts than the Mount as they coughed up the ball 13 times in the frame.
Hitting shots consistently would not be one of the things Binghamton has done consistently. Binghamton is connecting on just 39.7 percent of its attempts from the floor due to some poor ball movement. The Bearcats only assist on 8.5 field goals per game. Poor shooting and bad passing are just part of the problem for Binghamton, which also commits 15.5 turnovers per game. Jordan Reed (15.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg) is a solid player in the frontcourt with his ability to hang double-doubles up every night. Reed is one of four players averaging in double figures, but there is not much depth beyond the starters as no other player is netting more than four points per game.
In the first half against Indiana it looked like Syracuse was in for a real battle. However, after intermission the Orange shifted into another gear and ran away with the decision. During the final 20 minutes the Orange connected on 63.2 percent of their shots, while holding the Hoosiers to just six field goals. Syracuse also forced 10 turnovers in the frame.
Syracuse doesn't rank among the top 100 teams in the country in either scoring (75.8 ppg) or field-goal percentage (.459), but it is putting up respectable numbers in each area. Defense is the key, as the Orange are holding foes to 62.6 points per game, while ranking among the top 10 teams in the country in steals (10.5 pg). Leading the way for the talented group is C.J. Fair (17.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg), who is a pure scorer. Trevor Cooney (15.1 ppg) provides efficient shooting from beyond the arc and Tyler Ennis (12.4 ppg, 5.1 apg) runs the point in the backcourt. Rakeem Christmas (4.9 ppg, 4 rpg) and DaJuan Coleman (14.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg) handle things down low and Jerami Grant (13 ppg, 6 rpg) is one of the best players off the bench in the country.