High Point-Syracuse Preview

The Associated Press

C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis appear to be taking their games to the next level, and Syracuse is hoping to hit its stride heading into its inaugural ACC campaign.

The second-ranked Orange will prepare for their ACC slate with a three-game home stretch against non-conference opponents starting with struggling High Point on Friday night.

After playing the Panthers, Syracuse (10-0) faces former Big East foe and No. 8 Villanova on Dec. 28 and Eastern Michigan on Dec. 31 before staying at the Carrier Dome for its ACC opener against Miami on Jan. 4.

The Orange have won 48 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents by an average of 24.4 points dating to a 72-69 loss to Cleveland State on Dec. 15, 2008.

They're also unbeaten through 10 games for a fifth straight season after Fair and Ennis finished with 21 points apiece in Sunday's 68-63 win over St. John's at Madison Square Garden.

Fair came up big down the stretch, hitting a jumper from the right baseline to tie the score with 6:51 left before sinking two more from the same spot in the final three minutes.

The senior forward, who averaged a team-high 14.5 points for last season's Final Four team, is scoring 18.1 per game this season.

''We went to C.J., and he made a couple of tough plays. Shots that had to be made,'' coach Jim Boeheim said. ''He's been a key player. He wasn't our first option last year but he's always made big shots, big plays for us. We had other guys but he was developing. He's going to get the ball and these opportunities, and he's prepared for that.''

Ennis also has come of age, averaging 16.0 points on 55.6 percent shooting over his last five games. He's also dished out 6.0 assists per game over that span and ranks third nationally with a 4.55 assist-to-turnover ratio.

''As a freshman point guard, he is playing better than any I ever had, and I've had a few pretty good freshman guards," Boeheim said. "If he played like a freshman, we'd be 7-3. He's been the difference in our team.''

Boeheim's squad has limited teams to 58.5 points per game on 39.6 percent shooting in its six wins at the Carrier Dome. The Orange also have held opponents to a 37.4 field-goal percentage - including 11-of-51 shooting from 3-point range - in their last three overall.

They're hoping to continue that effort in their first meeting with the Panthers (3-6), who have averaged 64.0 points while allowing 80.0 during a four-game losing streak.

"Guarding the ball is our main issue," coach Scott Cherry told the team's official website. "We've been in all these ball games, we're just hurting ourselves with silly mistakes."

Syracuse will have to keep a close watch on Big South preseason player of the year John Brown, who is averaging team highs of 20.1 points and 8.3 rebounds. The sophomore forward scored a game-high 26 in an 85-74 loss at Morgan State on Wednesday.

High Point suffered a huge loss when forward Allan Chaney had to retire because of a heart condition after he collapsed against Wofford on Nov. 24. He had averaged 18.3 points and 9.8 rebounds over the first four games.

The Panthers haven't faced a ranked opponent since an 82-56 loss at No. 23 Minnesota on Dec. 28, 2008.

What to Read Next