Big wins away from the Carrier Dome have given Syracuse reason to be positive entering a long stretch of road games. Dominant play against Rutgers in recent years should help the Orange’s confidence as well.
The fifth-ranked Orange, undefeated away from home, look to extend a nine-game winning streak against the struggling Scarlet Knights in a Big East matchup Wednesday night.
Syracuse (15-1, 2-1) bounced back from its first loss of the season with two decisive home victories, 74-57 over Memphis last Wednesday night and 82-65 over South Florida four days later.
The Orange now play three straight away from the Carrier Dome, their longest run of road games this season. They are 3-0 on neutral courts, defeating ranked teams in each contest, and won their first true road game of the season Dec. 29, 80-73 over Seton Hall.
“I’m excited,” said Syracuse leading scorer Wesley Johnson, who had to sit out last season after transferring from Iowa State. “Last year I was home itching to play.”
Before visiting No. 10 West Virginia on Saturday, Syracuse has what seems to be a much-less daunting matchup. The Orange have won nine in a row versus the Scarlet Knights (9-6, 0-3) since a 68-65 road loss Jan. 29, 2003.
Rutgers doesn’t appear to be in any position to end its skid, entering this contest with four straight losses, including its first three conference games.
“Oh-and-three is a little bit of a hole,” Scarlet Knights forward Jonathan Mitchell said. “But this is the best league in America, and we’re playing against the best caliber athletes and the best competition.”
Mitchell will likely be one of the players assigned to try and stop Johnson, who is averaging 19.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in Big East games.
Johnson, along with fellow big men Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson, has gotten more room to work in the paint with opponents paying closer attention to guard Andy Rautins, who went 5 for 11 from 3-point range over his last two contests.
“We have a balance of inside and outside. People are playing Andy so hard, they’re not giving Andy looks at all, and that opens it up inside,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Those guys have got an opportunity to work down there. … We have people open all over the place.”
Onuaku and Jackson combined for 27 points versus South Florida. The Orange, though, will have to contend with one of the country’s most intimidating centers.
Hamady Ndiaye leads the Big East with 4.9 blocks per game. The 6-foot-11 senior is coming off one of his most productive games this season offensively, scoring 16 points in Rutgers’ 94-81 loss to Providence on Saturday night.
Ndiaye moved into the starting lineup after sophomore Gregory Echenique was lost for the season with an eye injury. On Friday, Echenique announced his intention to transfer.
That will break up a promising sophomore class led by Mike Rosario, averaging 16.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. The guard, though, is coming off his worst performance in 44 games as a starter, scoring two points on 1-of-11 shooting.
Rosario averaged 15.5 points but shot 27.9 percent in two games against Syracuse last season. The Orange lead the series 35-9.