(14) Syracuse (15-1) at Rutgers (9-7)

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  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Sat Jan 10, 2009
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There aren’t many teams in the nation better than Syracuse at guarding the perimeter. That doesn’t bode well for Rutgers’ chances at finally beating a Top 25 team.

The 11th-ranked Orange, who continue to play smothering defense, look to win their seventh straight Saturday night as they visit a Scarlet Knights team that has had an unprecedented run of games against ranked opponents.

Syracuse (15-1, 3-0 Big East) has held teams to 65.7 points per game and 22.7 percent shooting from 3-point range during a six-game winning streak.

During that span, three Orange opponents had stretches of missing at least 11 straight 3-point attempts, all in the first half. Syracuse has the third-best 3-point defense in the nation, holding opponents to 26.7 percent.

The Scarlet Knights (9-7, 0-3) are fourth, with opponents shooting 27.3 percent against them from beyond the arc, but they’ve been off-target themselves. Rutgers has made 29.7 percent of its shots from 3-point range.

Rutgers has actually shot 30 percent or better from 3-point range in three of its last four games, but it mattered little during a grueling stretch of contests against Top 25 teams.

The Scarlet Knights lost 81-76 to No. 18 Marquette on Wednesday night. Last week, they lost 97-75 at No. 1 North Carolina, 78-72 to No. 3 Pittsburgh and 80-49 at No. 2 Connecticut.

This will be a team-record fifth straight matchup against a ranked opponent for Rutgers, and it will have its hands full again. Syracuse will be trying to go 4-0 in the Big East for the first time since winning its first seven in 2004-05.

While their opponents have struggled from long range, the Orange have had their most accurate stretch of the season. Syracuse has made 44.9 percent of its 3-pointers over its last five contests.

On Wednesday night, the Orange made 8-of-16 from beyond the arc in an 85-68 win over DePaul.

Andy Rautins, who has been Syracuse’s most accurate threat from the perimeter, made five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.

Rautins has gone 25-for-44 on 3-pointers over the past four games and is 49-for-122 (40.2 percent) on the season. And he’s still getting the open looks that coach Jim Boeheim said would disappear once Big East play began.

“We’re playing well together right now,” said Rautins, who also had six of Syracuse’s 20 assists Wednesday. “Maybe it (Boeheim’s comment) was a motivation tactic. In the bigger games, I think teams will have someone face-guarding me all game. Other than that, my teammates are doing a great job setting up screens.”

Rautins is one of five players averaging double digits in scoring for the Orange. All of them scored at least 10 points versus DePaul.

“When you’ve got a balanced team, you look at the scouting report and it’s like, ‘Who do you guard?’” Syracuse forward Arinze Onuaku said. “It’s great.”

Rutgers, meanwhile, is averaging 66.7 points and relies heavily on Mike Rosario.

The freshman guard has scored 20-plus in four of his last five games, including a 22-point effort against Marquette. He ranks third in the nation in scoring among freshmen, averaging 17.6 points, and leads the Big East in free-throw shooting at 88.9 percent.

A big game from Rosario may be the Scarlet Knights’ only chance to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Orange. Rutgers last beat Syracuse 68-65 at home on Jan. 29, 2003.

The Orange lead the all-time series 33-9.

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