A pre-Big East stretch of three games in five days for Syracuse ends against an underdog opponent that appears more than capable of pulling the upset.
The No. 5 Orange look for a second straight 13-0 start Wednesday night when they host a Drexel team that has won six straight and has already knocked off an unbeaten team on the road.
Syracuse, which begins conference play next Tuesday against Providence, beat Iona 83-77 on Saturday and Morgan State 97-55 on Monday. Coach Jim Boeheim wanted to give his team a challenging set of games against quality mid-major opponents, and Drexel (8-1) appears to be one.
The Dragons handed then-No. 20 Louisville its first loss after an 8-0 start with a 52-46 victory Dec. 14.
“Wednesday is going to be really difficult,” Boeheim said. “Drexel is a really good, really physical team.”
This matchup features two of the top rebounders in the country in Syracuse’s Rick Jackson and Drexel’s Samme Givens. Each averages 11.8 boards.
Jackson had 18 points and nine rebounds Monday after finishing with a season-low eight points and eight rebounds two nights earlier.
“Yeah, Drexel is a good team, good mid-major team, very physical,” Jackson said Monday. “A team that is going to be like tonight who’s going to bang you and ride you around and we just have to play tough.”
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Jackson has an edge in size over the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Givens, who made all eight shots for season highs of 19 points and 16 boards in Saturday’s 61-57 win at St. Francis (Pa.).
“Going into Syracuse, it’s going to be a tough atmosphere,” Givens said.
Drexel survived that atmosphere for an 84-79 victory Dec. 19, 2006, for its first win in three tries against Syracuse. The Dragons won 23 games that season including a victory at Villanova, but that wasn’t enough to get them into the NCAA tournament.
That’s why coach Bruiser Flint is making sure his team isn’t satisfied with beating Louisville.
“We know we want to get there in the NCAA tournament in March and that was a big win for us,” senior Gerald Colds said. “Now we’ve got to keep it progressing throughout the season.”
Drexel’s top scorer is reserve guard Chris Fouch, averaging 19.7 points. Fouch, though, has been limited to 10 points in each of his last two games.
The Dragons are limiting opponents to 25.6 percent shooting on 3-pointers for one of the best marks in the country. They will try to slow down a Syracuse attack that produced a season-high 12 3-pointers Monday.
Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche combined for 11 of Syracuse’s 34 season-high assists as the Orange shot 53.4 percent. They have shot over 50 percent three straight games after doing so once in the first nine.
“We are certainly shooting better, which is a big factor,” Boeheim said. “Our offense is getting better but we have a lot of work to do.”
Orange freshman forward C.J. Fair sat out Monday with a sprained left ankle, and may return for this game.