Revenge may be hard to come by in the rematch Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Carrier Dome, as the No. 4 Orange should be the favorites to win again in their debut in the tournament.
Syracuse (7-0) is coming off a victory in the Maui Invitational, defeating then-No. 18 Baylor 74-67 in the title game Wednesday. C.J. Fair scored 24 points en route to tournament MVP honors as the Orange defeated Minnesota, California and the Bears in the games in Maui.
“We are figuring out how to make plays. Three nights in a row against good teams - this was a really good tournament for us,” coach Jim Boeheim said.
Syracuse averaged 80.3 points in the past three contests and shot better than 50 percent in the last two after hitting that mark once - in the season opener Nov. 8. The Orange had averaged 62.5 points in their two games prior to the contests in Maui, and were nearly upset by St. Francis, N.Y. before winning 56-50 on Nov. 18.
Despite the encouraging week, Boeheim shifted his focus to the Hoosiers almost immediately.
“Unfortunately, right now I’m thinking about Indiana,” he told the team’s official website after the title game. “I never enjoy these things for very long.”
Fair had 11 points and nine rebounds to help Syracuse to the 61-50 victory over Indiana on March 28. Struggling against the Orange’s 2-3 zone defense, the Hoosiers shot 33.3 percent from the field and scored 22 points in the first half while committing 19 turnovers overall.
Though both teams have suffered numerous key personnel losses since last season, Syracuse has four players averaging double figures in points, led by Fair with 18.0. The Orange jumped up four spots in the Top 25 this week.
While Indiana (6-1) has not been ranked this season, its 74 votes in the latest poll were the most by any team not in the Top 25. The Hoosiers bounced back from a 59-58 loss to then-No. 18 Connecticut on Nov. 22 by pounding Evansville 77-46 last Tuesday.
Jeremy Hollowell scored a career-high 18 points and freshman Noah Vonleh added 13 and 12 rebounds to lead Indiana, which limited the Purple Aces to 29.1 percent shooting. Evansville came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in 3-point shooting at 52.7 percent, No. 2 in field-goal percentage (56.6) and averaging 90.2 points per game.
That tough defense could make for another low-scoring affair between the Hoosiers and Orange.
“I think as far as Syracuse goes, the things that are always going to remain constant with them are their athleticism, their length, they get a lot of steals and blocked shots …” coach Tom Crean said. “Offensively they are doing a great job of getting the ball into the paint and they are getting to the foul line. They have very good players at every position and it seems like they know what they are trying to get out of every position.
“The things that we want to be focused on right now as much as anything, whether it’s what we need to improve or things we didn’t do as well (in the NCAA tournament meeting), we have to take care of the ball. Turnovers and some of the mental errors were some of the worst things the first time we played them.”
Indiana is averaging 15.9 turnovers on the season.
Five Hoosiers are averaging double digits in scoring, led by guard Yogi Ferrell with 18.1. However, the sophomore will be looking to bounce back after scoring a season-low 10 points against Evansville.
Syracuse has won 37 straight against unranked teams at the Carrier Dome.