Syracuse-DePaul Preview

The Associated Press

Looking every bit like the most formidable team in the country, Syracuse continues to roll behind tremendous efforts at both ends of the court.

Hoping to keep their unblemished record intact, the top-ranked Orange try for a sixth consecutive win over a DePaul team seeking a home upset Sunday.

After outscoring opponents by an average of 21.7 points during its non-conference schedule, Syracuse picked up right where it left in Wednesday's Big East opener. The Orange, who lead the league with 80.3 points per game, used a stifling defense performance in improving to 14-0 for the second time in as many seasons with a 75-49 rout of Seton Hall.

Coach Jim Boeheim's team limited the Pirates to 31.7 percent shooting and has held opponents to 34.3 percent over the last three games.

"That is what coach stresses about. At the end of the day we just have to buckle down and play our game and we know the offense is going to be there. Our main focus is about defense," said reserve Dion Waiters, second on the team with 12.5 points per game.

"The defense leads to consistency. We have to continue to get better and we have one goal in mind and that is to be in New Orleans (for the Final Four) at the end of the day."

While Syracuse's overall performance left little to be desired, senior guard Scoop Jardine managed five points on 2-of-6 shooting.

"I have to continue to be a leader for this team and we know going on the road in the Big East is no easy task for any opponent," Jardine said. "We all are going to get better, especially the young guys like (freshmen) Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams. This will be their first true test, conference game on the road and I am going to help them through it."

The Orange have outscored DePaul (9-3) by an average of 15.6 points during their five-game run in the series - the most recent win coming by a 107-59 score March 5.

Victory didn't come nearly as easily in Syracuse's last visit to Allstate Arena, however. The then-No. 4 Orange trailed by four at the half before pulling out a 59-57 win Jan. 30, 2010.

"I'm very excited about (facing) Syracuse," forward Cleveland Melvin, who ranks in the top five in the conference with 18.5 points per game, told the school's official website. "I didn't get a chance to play against them last year because of an (thumb) injury.

"Syracuse is No. 1, but we're not going to let that take away from our focus."

DePaul figures to be well rested for its first taste of conference play, having been off since beating Cal Poly 63-58 on Dec. 21 - its fifth straight win. The Blue Demons are off to their best start since opening 11-3 nearly 12 years ago.

"It's our best start (since 1999-00) and I'm enjoying it," said guard Brandon Young, averaging 17.4 points. "But we're not going to stop now."

DePaul hasn't posted six consecutive wins since Feb. 25-March 12, 2004.

The Blue Demons could have their hands full with Syracuse center Fab Melo. The 7-footer matched a career-high with 12 points to go along with a school-record 10 blocks Wednesday, and continues to show improvement in his second year with the program.

"I've put a lot of work in," he said. "I'm still working hard to get better and I'm sure you'll see better things from me. You're going to be more surprised."

The Blue Demons have dropped 31 consecutive meetings with Top 25 foes since knocking off then-No. 17 Villanova 84-76 on Jan. 3, 2008.

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