GAME NOTES: Coming off a pair of tough losses last week, the Syracuse Orange will try to put an end to their first losing skid of the season when they pay a visit to the Maryland Terrapins at the Comcast Center on Monday night in Atlantic Coast Conference action.
Syracuse was cruising right along with wins in each of its first 25 games, but after a shocking home loss to Boston College last Wednesday (62-59), it ventured to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday and battled wire-to-wire with Duke before losing 66-60 following a controversial ending that resulted in head coach Jim Boeheim's ejection. At 12-2 in the ACC, the Orange have slid out of the driver's seat in the league standings, as they are a game and a half behind Virginia for first place (14-1).
Maryland sports a 15-12 overall record this season with a decisive split between its success at home (10-3) compared to on the road (2-7). The Terps snapped a two-game skid last Tuesday when they took care of business versus Wake Forest, 71-60, their third straight home win, improving to 7-7 in the ACC.
Maryland leads the all-time series with Syracuse, 5-2, although the sides haven't met since 2008.
With the Orange trailing by two points with 11 seconds remaining, C.J. Fair was called for a charge on what appeared to be a borderline call. It caused Boeheim to lose his temper, receive two technical fouls and get ejected from the game. Duke converted 3-of-4 at the line following the technicals to effectively put the game away. The squad struggled shooting in the hostile road environment, making less than 39 percent of it field goal tries, including just 2-of-9 from 3-point range. Jerami Grant posted team highs in points (17) and rebounds (eight), Fair finished with 12 points and Tyler Ennis was dreadful from the floor (2-of-13) but still had nine points, six assists and four steals.
Syracuse's offense has been far from spectacular this season, as it shoots a modest 44.6 percent from the field for 69.2 ppg, but it has risen to elite status thanks to its excellent defense, which ranks seventh nationally in allowing only 58.6 ppg. It also lives comfortably in terms of its rebounding (+4.0) and turnover (+4.9) margins, with the latter ranking eighth-best in the country. Fair pours in a team-high 16.4 ppg and grabs 6.0 rpg. Trevor Cooney (13.0 ppg) does the majority of his damage from 3-point range, knocking down 77 long-range buckets at a 41.4 percent clip. Grant (12.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is another staple in the frontcourt, and Ennis (11.7 ppg, 5.7 apg) has made a name for himself as a clutch playmaker as a freshman.
The Terps carried a five-point lead into intermission of their most recent game and extended their advantage to as many as 16 down the stretch en route to the easy victory over Wake Forest. Although they were outshot from the field on the evening, 47.1 percent to 42.6 percent, they outscored the Deacons from 3-point range, 24-9, and scored 18 points off of 18 Wake turnovers. Nick Faust was the spark plug off the bench with 20 points, while Charles Mitchell and Jake Layman scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, and Seth Allen and Evan Smotrycz netted 10 points apiece.
Maryland has been able to successfully outpace its opponents this season, as it shoots 43.9 percent from the field for 71.8 ppg, while allowing 68.5 ppg on just 42.4 percent shooting. One of its biggest strengths comes on the glass with a +3.9 rebounding margin, but it is oftentimes held back by a lackluster free-throw percentage (.663). Dez Wells is the go-to scoring option with 14.8 ppg on greater than 48 percent field-goal shooting. Layman (12.1 ppg), Allen (12.0 ppg), Smotrycz (11.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Faust (10.1 ppg) round out the balanced attack and all four player have drained at least 33 3-pointers.
If Syracuse isn't careful, its slide can easily continue in this one against a Maryland squad that has performed well at home. However, with the spotlight brighter than it has been all season long, expect Boeheim's bunch to get back on the winning track.
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