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Syracuse-Providence Preview

AP - Sports

Syracuse has done exactly what it needs to do while facing a favorable schedule to begin Big East play.

Visiting another seemingly inferior opponent, the top-ranked Orange look to remain undefeated while trying for a fourth consecutive victory over Providence on Wednesday night.

Syracuse (15-0, 2-0) had little trouble opening the Big East portion of its schedule, beating Seton Hall 75-49 last Wednesday before an 87-68 victory at DePaul on Sunday. The Orange began 18-0 last season, and their best start under coach Jim Boeheim came when they won their first 19 in 1999-2000.

Boeheim's team is atop the AP poll for a fourth consecutive week.

"We got a lot of difficult games ahead, particularly at the end of the year and those are the teams you have to beat," he said. "We haven't proven anything yet. We've beaten people we probably should have beaten. That's good. ... But the tough part of our schedule is coming up."

That tough portion may begin Saturday at home versus No. 20 Marquette, though the Orange shouldn't overlook a Providence team which is 8-0 at home. The Friars (11-4, 0-2) hosted four ranked Big East opponents last season, winning twice and losing the other two games by a combined five points.

The Orange have won the last three meetings, but in the only one last season, Providence cut a 16-point deficit to four in the final two minutes before falling 81-74 at then-No. 5 Syracuse.

Kris Joseph scored a career-high 27 points in that contest and tops the Orange this season at 14.0 per game. He's totaled 50 points on 17-of-24 shooting in two home games against the Friars, but scored 11 while going 4 of 11 from the field in two at Providence.

After being held without a point at Seton Hall, Joseph scored 22 at DePaul as the Orange shot a season-high 58.6 percent.

For as well as Syracuse played on the offensive end, its defensive effort left a lasting impression on the Blue Demons.

"They're as good defensively as any Syracuse team I've seen," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, whose team went 3 of 18 from 3-point range and committed 18 turnovers Sunday.

Syracuse leads the nation in turnovers forced at 19.3 per game and is giving up an average of 58.9 points. Those factors might not bode well for the Friars, who rank near the bottom of the Big East in scoring at 69.5 per contest.

Providence shot a season-low 25.5 percent Saturday at ninth-ranked Georgetown but still managed to hang around before succumbing to a late 14-5 run in a 49-40 loss.

The Friars have lost nine of their last 10 Big East games.

"It's frustrating," first-year coach Ed Cooley said. "I'm learning, our children are learning. It's a process. It's not going to happen overnight. It is frustrating. It hurts."

Guards Vincent Council (16.1 points per game), Gerard Coleman (15.3 ppg) and Bryce Cotton (14.5) are Providence's top scorers, but only Coleman has had more than 11 points in the either of the first two league games. Coleman and Council combined for 22 points against Syracuse last season but shot 7 for 21 from the floor.

Providence has dropped six in a row against top-five opponents since beating top-ranked Pittsburgh 81-73 on Feb. 24, 2009, in its last game against the nation's No. 1 team.

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