Tallahassee, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The seventh-ranked Syracuse Orange will try to snap out of their funk as the regular season comes to a close, as they venture to the Donald L. Tucker Center on Sunday afternoon to take on Atlantic Coast Conference rival the Florida State Seminoles.
Midway through last month, Syracuse was riding high as the nation's No. 1 team, but it has hit a slide at the tail-end of the regular season with losses in four of five outings. The Orange most recently lost a home bout versus Georgia Tech last Tuesday, 67-62, to slip to 26-4 overall and 13-4 in the ACC.
Unlike Syracuse, Florida State has turned it on late in the campaign with three straight victories to improve to 18-11 overall and 8-8 in league play. The Seminoles defeated Boston College on the road on Tuesday, 74-70, and they have played well at the Tucker Center with wins in nine of 13 home bouts.
The Orange lead the all-time series with Florida State, 3-1, but the new conference rivals haven't played each other since the 1996-97 season.
Syracuse was embarrassed on its home floor in the latest bout by a mediocre Georgia Tech squad, as it was unable to overcome a 12-point deficit late in the second half. The offense fell flat, as it shot only 39.1 percent from the field (including 5-of-17 from 3-point range) and had a dreadful 7-of-16 showing at the free-throw line. C.J. Fair was outstanding despite the defeat, shooting 12-of-25 from the field for 28 points to go with eight rebounds. Tyler Ennis added 18 points and seven assists, while Rakeem Christmas grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots.
The offensive output for the Orange has been suspect all season long, as they shoot just 43.9 percent from the field for 68.1 ppg, but they've been one of the nation's elite teams thanks to a stout defense, which ranks eighth in the country in allowing only 59.3 ppg. Fair leads the way with 16.7 ppg to go with 6.2 rpg and more than a steal per contest. Trevor Cooney (12.6 ppg) has drained 83 3-pointers at a 38.8 percent clip, while Ennis (12.3 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.1 spg) has shown flashes of brilliance during his freshman season.
It would have been tough for the Seminoles to play a closer game their last time out, as they and Boston College played through 24 lead changes and neither team ever led by more than four points, but the Noles ultimately outlasted the Eagles as their winning continued. The squad made greater than 56 percent of its field goal tries on the evening and won the turnover battle, 16-11. Aaron Thomas paced the effort with 26 points while knocking down 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Okaro White was hot on his heels with 24 points on 9-of-12 from the field and 6-of-7 at the foul line.
On the season, FSU has impressed on both ends of the court, shooting 46.8 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from beyond the arc and 72.4 percent at the free-throw stripe for 71.6 ppg, while allowing just 65.7 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting. Thomas (14.1 ppg), Ian Miller (13.6 ppg) and White (13.1 ppg) are all neck-and-neck for the scoring lead, with Miller doing so on 54- of-136 from beyond the arc and White adding 6.5 rpg and more than a block per outing.