Syracuse-Notre Dame Preview

The Associated Press

While continuing to climb the Division I wins list, coach Jim Boeheim has Syracuse off to the best start in school history.

After four days off to let their accomplishment sink in, the Orange should be well rested for what could prove to be a difficult two-game road swing.

Looking to extend its winning streak to 21, top-ranked Syracuse visits South Bend on Saturday night seeking a seventh victory in eight games at Notre Dame.

The Orange (20-0, 7-0 Big East) defeated Pittsburgh 71-63 on Monday to surpass their previous best start, a 19-0 opening to 1999-2000.

"The best start in school history and beating Pitt, this is something I'll always remember," said senior Scoop Jardine, who posted his second double-double in five games with 12 points and 10 assists. "Coach is going to keep breaking records. We're trying to do something special here. We just have to stay focused on the task at hand."

Monday's result gave Boeheim career win No. 876, moving him into a fourth-place tie with Kentucky's legendary Adolph Rupp. Boeheim is just three wins away from catching North Carolina's Dean Smith.

"He's got my vote for national coach of the year right now," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "Obviously, there was off-the-court stuff, but away from that, he has managed a lot of guys that want to play more than they're playing. He's done a fabulous job getting everybody involved and having them buy into winning and chasing a team goal. In this era, it is really a challenge to do that."

One win from claiming the best start ever by a Big East team, Syracuse knows keeping its perfect record intact won't be easy. After this matchup with the Irish (11-8, 3-3), the Orange visit red-hot Cincinnati on Monday.

"This is fun. We have two games in a row, I call this the NBA schedule. We come home, and then go right from one city to the next," Jardine said.

"We're going to go into two hostile environments, where two teams are really going to be on us, so for the most part we really have to stay focused and try to get two wins."

While the Joyce Center hasn't proven kind to most visitors, Syracuse hasn't faced much difficulty there, taking six of the last seven road meetings with Notre Dame. The Orange have outscored the Irish by an average of 14.6 points in winning three straight overall in the series.

Two days after its 29-game home winning streak came to an end with a 67-53 loss to then-No. 17 Connecticut, Notre Dame fell 65-58 at Rutgers on Monday.

Guard Eric Atkins scored a game-high 15 points but went just 4 of 14 from the field as the Irish fell to 0-3 in conference play when scoring fewer than 60 points.

"I thought defensively that we did a good enough job to win," Brey said. "It's tough to win in this league when you're scoring in the 50s."

Scoring against the Orange likely won't come easy. Syracuse is surrendering just 60.4 points per game and limiting opponents to 38.1 percent from the field - the third-best mark in the conference.

The Irish haven't dropped back-to-back home games since falling to then-No. 3 UConn and then-No. 8 Marquette on Jan. 24 and 26, 2009.

Notre Dame has lost four of six versus ranked foes this season. The program has seven victories all-time against top-ranked teams, but none since it beat North Carolina in 1987 the last time a No. 1 visited campus.

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