It can’t be counted in the loss column, but Syracuse has suffered its first setback of the season.
The 13th-ranked Orange, facing the possibility of losing third-leading scorer Eric Devendorf for the season, look to remain undefeated when they face Long Beach State on Saturday.
Syracuse (8-0) has managed to stay unbeaten despite having already faced two ranked teams, then-No. 18 Florida on Nov. 24 and then-No. 22 Kansas the following day. The Orange scored 89 points in both of those games, and are averaging 84.0 on the season.
Devendorf has played a large role in Syracuse’s success on offense, averaging 14.1 points and 3.1 assists. The junior guard, though, was suspended for the remainder of the academic year for allegedly hitting a female student in the face.
Devendorf is appealing the decision, handed down by a university judicial board, so he is expected to play Saturday.
Orange coach Jim Boeheim says the suspension was too severe for Devendorf, who missed most of last season with a torn knee ligament. Andy Rautins, averaging 9.0 points and 4.0 assists off the bench, would likely take his place in the lineup.
Syracuse has already done its share of overcoming adversity on the court, rallying to win four games after trailing at halftime. The Orange were down 40-35 at the half against Cornell on Dec. 3, but won 88-78 in their most recent game.
A win Saturday would match Syracuse’s best start since 2001-02.
“It definitely feels good. I’m not going to lie,” sophomore point guard Jonny Flynn said.
Flynn is averaging 19.5 points, leading a Syracuse team that is well on its way to giving Boeheim his 31st 20-win season, which would break a tie he shares with Dean Smith for tops in Division I.
After failing to be selected for the previous two NCAA tournaments, the Orange’s early season success has boosted the team’s morale.
“Being ranked is always nice, but it doesn’t mean anything because it’s a long season,” Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “Hopefully, you’re ranked high at the end of the year. Obviously, for what we’ve done, it shows the guys that we are doing good things and that we have a respectable team and that we have a chance to be very good.
“The thing that coach (Boeheim) keeps talking about, which is so important, is we’ve got a lot of room for improvement. That’s what’s exciting about this team - more room to grow.”
Long Beach State (4-4), meanwhile, has lost two straight after winning four in a row. In their only game against a ranked opponent this season, the 49ers lost 68-61 to then-No. 25 Wisconsin on Nov. 16.
Long Beach State is coming off its first loss to a sub-.500 team, falling 72-63 to 3-4 Weber State on Thursday night. It was the second straight game in which the 49ers were held under 44 percent from the field and below 65 points in regulation—they were coming off a 78-74 double-overtime loss to San Francisco last Saturday.
“This team needs to learn how to win,” Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. “We are struggling right now offensively.”
Senior guard Donovan Morris, who leads the 49ers with 19.3 points a contest, had 14 on 5-of-13 shooting Thursday.
Syracuse won its only meeting with Long Beach State, 94-79 at home on Dec. 15, 1990.