The last time Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim faced Kansas, he won his elusive title in the 2003 NCAA championship game.
The Orange will face No. 22 defending national champion Kansas for the first time since that contest with much less at stake when they meet Tuesday in the championship of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, where the Jayhawks have won 28 straight regular-season games.
Led by Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, Syracuse beat a Kansas team that featured Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison 81-78 to claim its lone national championship in 2003. Boeheim earned his first title after losing in his two previous NCAA title game appearances.
The Orange probably have less loftier goals this season after missing the NCAA tournament each of the last two years. They seem headed in the right direction to return after an 89-83 win over No. 17 Florida in the semifinals on Monday.
Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn each scored 18 points, and Harris added 11 rebounds as Syracuse shot 51.7 percent (31-of-60). The Orange still had trouble with turnovers with 16 - bringing their season average to 17.3 - but used a 40-34 edge on the glass to hold on for the victory.
“An early season game, both teams are going to make some mistakes,” Boeheim said. “I thought we made some crazy unforced errors, but we made good plays when we had to.”
It’s unlikely that Syracuse will shoot that high a percentage against Kansas (3-0), which hasn’t allowed a team to reach 30 percent from the floor this season. The Jayhawks held Washington to 29.2 percent in an easy 73-54 win on Monday.
The linchpin to that defense was 6-foot-11 center Cole Aldrich, who had 16 points, nine rebounds and a career-high six blocks.
“What we saw tonight is what we’ve seen in practice on a pretty consistent basis,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “From a game-performance standpoint, this was by far his best game, there’s no doubt about that. He showed a little bit of everything.”
The Jayhawks shot 50 percent and only committed 10 turnovers Monday and were led by Sherron Collins’ 18 points. They expect a bigger challenge from the Orange in the title game.
“We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight to beat them,” Self said.
The game features some quick guards, with Harris and Flynn taking on the Kansas duo of Collins and Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor, a freshman, has started the last two games and had 10 points on Monday.
Flynn is averaging team highs of 20.0 points and 5.0 assists, and the 6-foot guard is shooting 57.1 percent (24-of-42) from the field.
“It was a big statement game coming against a ranked team,” Flynn said about Monday’s win. “We came out with a big ‘W’ on the road.”
Syracuse’s victory over Kansas in 2003 evened the all-time series at two wins apiece.