Syracuse-Cincinnati Preview

The Associated Press

The reason remains a mystery, but it's certain that Syracuse will be without Fab Melo again.

It's also impossible to tell whether the Orange would still be unbeaten were he on the court.

Third-ranked Syracuse looks to rebound from its first defeat of the season by beating Cincinnati for the fourth time in a row Monday night.

It's unclear why Melo isn't with the Orange (20-1, 7-1 Big East), but they were upset 67-58 at Notre Dame without the sophomore center Saturday. He'll sit out at least one more game, leaving Syracuse without its top rebounder (5.7 per game) and shot blocker (3.0). Melo also averages 7.2 points.

"Fab is the key to our defense. He's an anchor. It wasn't that, though. Our offense wasn't going (Saturday)," senior guard Scoop Jardine said. "Fab only averaged six points for us. That's not too much points. You know, we missed him truly but we needed to make more shots regardless."

The Orange fell from the top spot in the poll, which they had occupied since Dec. 12, following their worst shooting performance since hitting 31.7 percent in a 63-49 loss to then-No. 1 Connecticut on Feb. 11, 2009. They shot 34.0 percent Saturday, 14 percent lower than their season mark.

Jardine missed all five of his shots from the field and finished with two points and seven assists against the Fighting Irish. He is averaging 8.3 points and a team-high 4.9 assists - both representing a drop from his career highs of 12.5 and 5.9 from last season.

Jardine had 11 points and seven assists to lead the Orange to a 67-52 home win over then-No. 25 Cincinnati (15-5, 5-2) on Jan. 15, 2011. That helped soften the blow of the loss of Kris Joseph, who exited the contest after 10 minutes of action and two points when he crashed to the floor on a drive and hit the back of his head on the hardwood.

Joseph continues to be one of Syracuse's top offensive threats in 2011-12, leading the team with 13.6 points per game. However, he struggled to get to 12 on Saturday, going 4 for 12 from the field - 1 for 5 from beyond the arc.

Syracuse has won six of eight all-time against Cincinnati, and has taken the last three meetings by an average of 18.7 points. The Orange cruised to a 71-54 victory in their last visit to Fifth Third Arena on Feb. 7, 2010.

The Bearcats are 9-3 at home, but fell 77-74 in overtime at West Virginia on Saturday. Cincinnati, though, has defeated three consecutive ranked opponents, the most recent a 70-67 win over then-No. 13 Connecticut on Wednesday.

Sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick has averaged 20.7 points in those three victories and leads the team with 16.0 per game on the season. Kilpatrick scored 12 against the Mountaineers.

He had 11 points as a reserve versus then-No. 4 Syracuse last season.

Bearcats junior guard Cashmere Wright is trying to continue his recent improvement. He's averaging 13.7 points over the last three games - more than double his 6.8 points per game in his previous five.

Wright had 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the loss to West Virginia.

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