Miami Gardens, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-ranked Syracuse Orange look to remain perfect on Saturday afternoon when they pay a visit to the BankUnited Center to take on the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in an Atlantic Coast Conference clash.
Points were at a premium when these teams met up for their respective ACC openers back on Jan. 4 in New York, where the Orange claimed a hard-fought 49-44 home victory. Syracuse has won 15-of-20 meetings in the all-time series.
Syracuse is off to an 18-0 start for the third time in four seasons, tying the third-best start in school history. The transition from the Big East has been smooth so far as the Orange have grinded down each of their first five ACC foes, most recently then No. 22 Pittsburgh in a 59-54 final last Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
Meanwhile, Miami has not strung together consecutive wins or losses since the start of January. The Hurricanes hosted 18th-ranked Duke Wednesday night and were dealt a lopsided 67-46 loss, with NBA stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all looking on from courtside.
So far the ACC has not yet adjusted to newcomer Syracuse and its vaunted 2-3 zone defense, as the Orange have yielded an average of just 50.8 points through its first five league games. Familiar foe Pittsburgh struggled as well last weekend as it was held to 38.3-percent shooting from the floor. On the season, the Orange have allowed 58.2 ppg, which ranked eighth nationally entering the week. Of course, there are also weapons on the offensive end of the floor.
Preseason ACC Player of the Year C.J. Fair (16.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) has put together a solid senior season and currently leads Syracuse in scoring and ranks second in rebounding. Freshman facilitator Tyler Ennis (11.9 ppg) has provided a spark, particularly from beyond the arc (.400), and already boasts three conference rookie of the week awards. His 4.13 assist-to-turnover ratio is fourth-best in the nation, and he is second in the ACC with 5.5 apg. In the win over Pitt, Ennis came up big down the stretch with six points in the final 1:48. Sharpshooter Trevor Cooney (13.6 ppg) and forward Jerami Grant (12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for Syracuse.
Miami also prides itself on defense, having held the opposition to 39.3- percent shooting from the floor and only 59.0 ppg this season. But whereas Syracuse has several options on offense, the Hurricanes simply do not have that same luxury at this point. They shoot just 31.5 percent from 3-point range as a team and lack a consistent rebounder, two areas that have been clear weaknesses in the half-court game.
Top scorers Rion Brown (13.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Donnavan Kirk (10.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.1 bpg) have been active in the paint, but they allowed Duke freshman Jabari Parker to rack up 17 points and a season-high 15 rebounds on Wednesday. The Blue Devils had a 42-28 rebounding advantage over Miami in that game, which led to a key 22-7 edge in second-chance points. Kirk posted his third consecutive double-figure scoring game, but his 11 points were a team-high.