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Eagles hoping to soar past second-ranked Orange

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Updated: 12/31/2013 9:55 am

Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Before beginning their first trip through an ACC schedule, the second-ranked Syracuse Orange will have to deal with the Eastern Michigan Eagles in a non-conference clash at the Carrier Dome.

This is the third part of a difficult three-game road trip for Eastern Michigan. The Eagles split the first two portions, with an 81-79 overtime win over Oakland followed by an 82-59 trampling at No. 7 Duke on Saturday. They will get a final warm-up against Rochester before opening MAC play on the road against Bowling Green next week.

There have been 12 teams that have tried to beat Syracuse this season, and 12 have failed. The most recent victim was a former Big East Conference rival, as the Orange stormed back to blow past then No. 8 Villanova, 78-62, at home on Saturday. The Orange will also be at the Carrier Dome for their first ACC game, which is this Saturday against Miami-Florida.

Syracuse has posted identical, 84-48, triumphs over Eastern Michigan in the last two seasons. The Eagles won the only other contest between the programs, with a 68-65 decision in December of 1996.

Even though they lost by a wide margin against Duke, the Eagles did outscore the Blue Devils in the paint (26-24) and off turnovers (18-15). However, they also had a 30-12 deficit from beyond the arc, while shooting at just 37.5 percent from the field overall.

If there is a strength for Eastern Michigan it comes on defense. The Eagles are holding teams to just 67.6 ppg, while ranking ninth in the country in opponents field goal percentage (.370). In terms of scoring itself, EMU doesn't produce at a particularly exciting pace, netting 71.5 ppg and shooting below 45 percent from the floor. Karrington Ward (15 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is one of only two players averaging in double figures. Ray Lee (11.7 ppg) is the other. However, Mike Talley (9.5 ppg) finished with a team-high 20 points against Duke. DaShonte Riley (5.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 bpg) doesn't score much but fuels the defense with his ability to protect the rim.

Last Saturday, Syracuse took a punch in the mouth from Villanova, trailing 25-7 after the first nine minutes. The Orange recovered quickly though, ripping off a 20-0 run to reclaim the lead, which they would never relinquish. Trevor Cooney nailed five shots from 3-point range to finish with a team-high 21 point, while Tyler Ennis tacked on 20 of his own.

Cooney (14.7 ppg) is part of a group of four scorers that account for roughly 75 percent of the Orange's offensive production. The 6-foot-4 guard is doing so primarily from 3-point range, where he has hit at least five attempts in six of the last eight games. C.J. Fair (17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the leading scorer on the roster and was effective enough against Villanova, scoring 17 points, although he did have five turnovers. Ennis (12.8 ppg, 5.1 apg) has been doing just fine taking over the point from Michael Carter-Williams, who is lighting it up in the NBA now. Finally Jerami Grant (12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) provides coach Jim Boeheim's squad with a spark off the bench.

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