Syracuse swept through three Big East road games in six days, building plenty of momentum as it plays five of its next seven at the Carrier Dome.
Its first guest has had a much tougher time away from home.
Marquette remains winless on the road after an embarrassing last-second loss earlier this week, and things won’t get any easier Saturday as the fifth-ranked Orange look for their fifth straight win over the Golden Eagles and sixth in a row overall.
Syracuse (18-1, 5-1) lost its conference home opener 82-72 to Pittsburgh on Jan. 2, but has won its past five games by an average of 12.8 points.
The last three have been on the road, including an 81-65 win at Rutgers on Jan. 13 and a 72-71 escape at then-No. 10 West Virginia last Saturday.
Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins carried the Orange to an 84-71 win at Notre Dame on Monday, combining for 43 points and keying a late 17-7 run that put away the game.
Syracuse, which leads the nation in field-goal percentage (53.2), has won six straight conference road games dating to February. Coach Jim Boeheim’s team is one game behind Big East leader Villanova.
“Every win you get in this league is big,” Boeheim said. “Road wins, obviously are even better. The league isn’t doing us any favors. But when you win them, you feel pretty good.”
Irish coach Mike Brey called Boeheim’s team the best in the country.
“I’ve watched everybody else play, but I’m just very impressed with them,” Brey said. “There’s just so many weapons that they come at you with.”
Johnson had 22 points, his highest-scoring game since Nov. 27, to raise his team-leading average to 17.1 per game, but the Orange’s biggest revelation on the three-game road run was Rautins. The senior guard averaged 9.5 points in the team’s first 16 games, but scored 18.7 per game in its last three.
“We played three good teams and we’re lucky to go home 3-0,” Rautins said.
Marquette (11-7, 2-4), meanwhile, limps into Syracuse with an 0-4 road record, though its first three losses - all to top 20 opponents - were nothing to be ashamed of.
Two were heartbreakers, losing by one at West Virginia on Dec. 29 and by two at Villanova on Jan. 9 - its second defeat by one basket in eight days to the Wildcats.
The Golden Eagles dropped another nail-biter Wednesday, but that one was less excusable. DePaul’s Mike Stovall hit a jumper with seven-tenths of a second left to lift the Blue Demons to a 51-50 win, breaking their 24-game Big East losing streak.
Both guard David Cubillan and leading scorer Lazar Hayward - whose 14 points all came in the first half - missed the front ends of bonus free-throw situations in the final 20.2 seconds.
Marquette was largely silent from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles lead the nation in 3-point shooting (43.1 percent) - potentially a major plus against Syracuse’s zone - but hit 4 of 12 at DePaul and shot 41.5 percent overall.
Coach Buzz Williams’ team is 1-7 if it shoots under 45.0 percent.
The Orange shot 56.3 percent and held the Golden Eagles to 36.0 percent - including 7 of 30 from beyond the arc - in an 86-79 overtime win in Milwaukee on March 7, their fourth straight victory in the series.
Rautins had 20 points while Hayward scored 17.
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