The Syracuse Orange will wrap up the non-conference schedule on the final day of 2012 against the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. Though the battle against the Northeast Conference foe shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Orange, there are keys to the game that will ensure a victory.
After starting the year with 10 straight wins, Syracuse currently sits at 11-1 on the year and has looked rather unimpressive in the last two games.
During an 83-79 loss to the Temple Owls, The Orange shot just 45 percent from the field and 56 percent from the foul line.
Heading into Saturday night's matchup with Alcorn State, 'Cuse was ranked fifth in the nation in scoring, averaging 83 points a game. Against the Braves, the Orange managed only 57 points and shot a measly 38 percent from the field. Though they came out victorious, head coach Jim Boeheim can't be happy with the performance.
Central Connecticut enters Monday's tilt in the Carrier Dome losers of its last three games and with a mediocre 4-6 record. While the numbers and the fact that Syracuse is ranked in the top 10 point to a clear Orange victory, there are still several areas that Syracuse must excel in to come out on top.
1. Keep the Blue Devils off the Foul Line
Nothing can equalize a game like foul shots. The opponent gets a chance at free, uncontested points.
Central Connecticut enters the game as the best foul shooting team in the country. The Blue Devils have converted on 81.5 percent of their free throws this season.
Ironically, the Blue Devils shoot just 44 percent from the field. That means that they struggle to score during the flow of a game but take full advantage of mistakes by their opponents when they get to the line.
Hitting shots from the foul line may be the only chance that Central Connecticut has to make this a close game. Syracuse must play smart and limit the opportunities from the charity stripe.
2. Improve Foul Shooting
As mentioned above, nothing can offset a mismatch like foul shots. Missed chances at the line typically come back to haunt a team. It's not hard to figure out that foul shooting played a huge role in the Orange's only loss of the season.
For the year, Syracuse is shooting just 65 percent from the line and ranked 273rd in the country. In their last game against Alcorn State, they shot just 43 percent.
The frontcourt of the Orange should be able to use their size and dominate the game down low. If that happens, many trips to the foul line can typically be expected. In their last outing they made 28 trips to the stripe.
Syracuse should have ample opportunities to shoot foul shots against the Blue Devils and they must be converted on in order to win the game.
3. The Bench Must Continue to Contribute
What makes this Syracuse team so tough is the fact that it uses a 9-man rotation where all players are capable of playing key roles. Senior forward James Southerland comes off the bench but his 26 minutes a game is fourth best on the team. He leads all scorers with 15 points a game.
Against Alcorn State, the bench scored just 22 points. That number is below the team's average and needs to improve if the Orange wish to continue to be successful. With the bench scoring down in the game, Syracuse managed just 57 total points.
Freshman guard Trevor Cooney paced all reserves with 12 points against the Braves.
For the season, Baye Keita and Cooney are both averaging five points off the bench to go along with Southerland.
In the matchup with the Blue Devils, it is important that the guys on the bench are focused and step up when called upon.