Syracuse (17-4) at Providence (13-6)

Clear Currently: Providence, RI, US
Temp: 17° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Wed Jan 28, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Because Syracuse has been such a strong offensive team all season, its current struggles in that department are surprising.

A matchup against one of the Big East’s weaker defenses, though, could be coming at an opportune time.

The 15th-ranked Orange look to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season Wednesday night when they visit Providence.

Syracuse leads the conference in shooting percentage (49.8) and also ranks third in scoring with 79.3 points per game.

But the Orange (17-4, 5-3) haven’t been as potent offensively in losing three of their last four games, all against Big East foes. In that span, they’ve averaged 71.0 points on 45.7 percent shooting, and were held to season lows in both categories in Sunday’s 67-57 home loss to then-No. 9 Louisville.

“I think we just have to execute a little more, for myself make a couple more shots,” said Jonny Flynn, who is averaging a team-high 15.9 points, but has totaled only 24 on 23.1 percent (6-for-26) shooting over his last two games.

“We have bad games like this and go stretches where we get cold. We just have to limit them.”

Reserve Eric Devendorf had 20 points and Arinze Onuaku added 11 and nine rebounds, but the Orange shot 35.3 percent versus the Cardinals, who’ve held opponents to a Big East-low 38.0 percent from the field.

“You’re not going to get out and run against good teams in this league,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “They’re going to be defensive games, they’re going to be battles. We just didn’t make good offensive plays. If we shoot 35 percent from the field, 25 percent from the 3, we’re not going to win.”

Boeheim’s squad might be limited further with starting guard Andy Rautins day-to-day after twisting his right ankle Sunday. The Orange’s top outside threat, Rautins is averaging a career-high 10.5 points and has connected on a team-high 38.2 percent from 3-point range.

Though Rautins’ status is unclear, his absence might not matter against Providence (13-6, 5-2). The Friars are allowing 72.4 points per game - the second-highest average in the conference - and a Big East-worst 44.2 percent from the floor.

The Orange have averaged 77.0 points on 48.4 percent shooting in winning the last four meetings with the Friars. Forward Paul Harris had 14 points and Flynn added 12 to help Syracuse overcome 39.2 percent shooting in a 71-64 home win last Jan. 27 in the teams’ latest matchup.

Syracuse has won seven of its last eight games against the Friars, and six of its last seven visits to Providence.

The Friars have rebounded from back-to-back losses with two straight wins, including a 98-93 overtime victory at Seton Hall on Thursday.

Jeff Xavier scored 20 points and Weyinmi Efejuku added 19 as Providence improved to 5-2 in the Big East for the first time since 2003-04.

A win Wednesday would give the Friars their best start in conference play since winning seven of their first nine league games in 2000-01. They’ll try to accomplish that at home, where they are 10-2 and have limited visitors to 68.8 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting.

Providence has dropped six of its last seven against Top 25 teams, falling to then-No. Georgetown and then-No. 14 Marquette in back-to-back games Jan. 10 and 17.

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