Syracuse rose to the challenge its last time out, and came away with an impressive road win over a ranked opponent. It now tries to avoid a letdown before heading into Big East play.
The 17th-ranked Orange try to avoid overlooking road-weary Coppin State as they wrap up the nonconference portion of their schedule Monday at Carrier Dome.
Syracuse (11-1) was not ranked in the preseason and was picked to finish eighth in the Big East, but has quickly established itself as one of the teams to beat in the conference.
The Orange lost to Cleveland State 72-69 on a desperation shot last Monday, but responded with a 82-60 victory over Canisius on Wednesday and a 72-65 win at No. 23 Memphis on Saturday - their third win of the season against a ranked opponent. Syracuse, which hosts Seton Hall next Tuesday in its conference opener, also defeated then-No. 17 Florida and then-No. 22 Kansas in the CBE Classic in Kansas City.
Against the Tigers, the Orange were without starting guard Eric Devendorf, who is under university suspension after he was accused of hitting a female student on Nov. 1, but they received a big lift from leading scorer Jonny Flynn, averaging 18.1 points.
Flynn, who was questionable for the game because of an ailing hip that he hurt in the second half against Canisius, finished with a game-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He was averaging just 12.3 points in his previous three games.
“This was his biggest night,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of Flynn. “He’s struggled a little bit the last couple of games, and (Saturday) he stepped up early and kept us in there.”
Boeheim’s famed 2-3 zone defense also had another stellar performance, limiting Memphis to just 34.3 percent shooting from the floor and 7-of-33 (21.2 percent) from beyond the arc.
“We wanted to play to our strength,” Orange guard Andy Rautins said. “Our strength was packing in the zone and not letting them drive.”
Syracuse has been extremely stingy lately, holding its last four opponents to 35.2 percent shooting from the field, including 19.3 percent from 3-point range.
Coppin State (1-7), meanwhile, is one of the worst offensive teams in the nation, averaging 55.1 points on 35.8 percent shooting during its seven-game losing streak.
The Eagles opened their season with a 94-73 win over Wilmington, but have been plagued by a brutal schedule since.
Coppin State is in a stretch of playing 15 straight games away from home, including four against ranked opponents, before hosting Norfolk State on Jan. 10. Coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell said he wanted his team to be tested by a tough schedule, even after losing five of his top six players from last year’s NCAA tournament team.
“I felt, let’s put them out there, let them get beat up, let them feel a little adversity in their life,” Mitchell said after Saturday’s 57-46 loss to Wisconsin. “And it would be worth it in the long run.”
Tywain McKee scored a team-high 16 points against the Badgers, but was the only player on Coppin State to score more than eight in the game.
The Eagles have lost 30 straight games against ranked opponents - all on the road - since a 78-65 win over No. 6 South Carolina on March 14, 1997.
This is the first meeting between the Orange and Eagles since Syracuse’s 74-56 win on Nov. 19, 1998. The Orange are 2-0 in the all-time series.