FINAL Siena (0-2), 77 at (17) Syracuse (4-2), 96
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, College Basketball Staff Writer
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 25th, 7:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carrier Dome (33,000) -- Syracuse, New York. Television: None. Home Record: Siena 0-0, Syracuse 2-1. Away Record: Siena 0-1, Syracuse 0-0. Neutral Record: Siena 0-0, Syracuse 1-1. Conference Record: Siena 0-0, Syracuse 0-0. Series Record: Syracuse leads, 6-0.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off a surprising defeat, the 17th-ranked Syracuse Orange get back to action tonight against the Siena Saints at the Carrier Dome. Siena opened its season on Monday against Penn of the Ivy League, and the result of that contest was an 82-77 defeat. First-year head coach Fran McCaffery actually went to Penn two and a half decades ago, so the game was significant for him. Considering that McCaffery has inherited a team that finished 2004-05 with a woeful 6-24 record, expectations are relatively low for the new leader of the program. As for Syracuse, it carries a 3-2 record into this contest, but the last two outings have resulted in defeat. After losing a close game to Florida in the 2K College Hoops Classic, the Orange returned home and were upset by Bucknell, 74-69. It should be mentioned, however, that the Bison return all of their key contributors from their NCAA Tournament team from 2004-05. Still, the fact that Syracuse beat Texas Tech by 35 points last week made the Bucknell loss rather unexpected. The Orange posted a 78-56 victory over the Saints last season and have won all six meetings between the teams.
Jack McClinton was a promising player for the Saints last season but he decided to transfer to the University of Miami. He and Michael Haddix were expected to be back in place as one of the MAAC's top duos, but Haddix tore his left Achilles' heel on a recent trip to China and is now being forced to take a medical redshirt. Considering that senior guard Antoine Mitchell is the top returning scorer for the squad at 7.6 ppg, there appears to be little for the new coach to work with. Fortunately, the effort against Penn in the opener provides hope. Four players scored in double figures for Siena, and Antoine Jordan came through with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Tay Fisher pitched in 18 points, Kojo Mensah tallied 15 points and David Ryan rounded out the group with 14. After shooting only 34.4 percent from the floor in the first half, the Saints connected on 51.9 percent of their field goal attempts over the final 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the perennially powerful Quakers proved to be too tough in their own building.
Syracuse struggled at the offensive end in the loss to Bucknell, as the club shot just 38.3 percent from the floor and committed 16 turnovers in front of the disappointed Carrier Dome crowd. Demetris Nichols finished with 19 points and nine boards for the Orange, and Terrence Roberts pitched in 12 points and 11 rebounds. Gerry McNamara is the undeniable leader of this team, as the senior played a key role on the National Championship squad from a couple of years ago that featured Carmelo Anthony. McNamara scored 18 points against Bucknell, but shot just 6-of-19 from the field, including a 4-of-13 showing from behind the arc. Nichols is a 6-8 junior forward who enters this season without a big reputation, but he is currently the leading scorer for Syracuse with 15.2 ppg to go along with 7.4 rpg. McNamara adds 13.0 ppg to the lineup, and he has dished out 30 assists with only 11 turnovers. Unfortunately, he has shot an embarrassing 19-of-69 from the field thus far, and the standout guard must improve his efficiency in a hurry.
Expect the Orange to bounce back strong tonight, as this could be the game McNamara finally breaks out of his shooting slump. Keep an eye on Nichols, as it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his high level of play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Syracuse 81, Siena 57