Undermanned and frustrated, Syracuse hopes returning home will be the key to ending its current rough stretch.
Owners of a Division I-best 35-game home winning streak, the ninth-ranked Orange look to avoid losing three straight for the first time in two years Monday night against No. 25 Notre Dame, which is trying for its fourth consecutive victory.
With senior reserve forward James Southerland (13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds per game) sidelined with eligibility issues and 6-foot-9 freshman starter DaJuan Coleman out at least a month after undergoing knee surgery this week, Syracuse (18-3, 6-2 Big East) dressed seven scholarship players for Saturday's 65-55 loss at Pittsburgh.
Playing without Coleman for the first time, C.J. Fair scored 20 points, Brandon Triche had 14 and Michael Carter-Williams added 13 as Syracuse shot 36.7 percent, was outrebounded 39-24 and never led in the second half. It came one week after the Orange shot a season-low 33.3 percent and were outrebounded 50-41 in a 75-71 overtime defeat at Villanova.
Though Syracuse is in danger of losing three straight for the first time since a four-game slide Jan. 17-29, 2011, coach Jim Boeheim won't use a lack of bodies as an excuse - for now.
"I still think seven or eight guys are enough," he said. "Over the course of a four-game tournament or something like that, then that's when depth is more of a factor. When your games are spaced out I don't think it's as big of a factor."
Minus the 6-8 Southerland (5.2 rpg) and now Coleman (4.4 rpg), Syracuse has been outrebounded in three straight games. The Orange are forced to rely inside on sophomore Rakeem Christmas and freshman Jerami Grant, who combined for five points - all from Grant - and eight boards against the Panthers.
Fair went a season-best 9 of 13 from the field Saturday, but Triche and Carter-Williams have combined to shoot 29.5 percent (18 of 61) over the last two games. Already shooting 35.9 percent on the season, Carter-Williams went 7 of 29 (24.1) versus Villanova and Pitt.
"If (Brandon) and I don't shoot the ball well, then we're not going to win," Carter-Williams said. "If I don't shoot the ball well, we're not going to win games."
Carter-Williams leads the nation with 8.6 assists per game but has totaled six in the last two, including a season-low two Saturday. He has 19 turnovers in his last four games.
However, the Orange should feel confident at the Carrier Dome, where they hope to extend Division I's longest active home winning streak that dates to a 64-56 loss to No. 11 Georgetown on Feb. 9, 2011.
The Orange took a 20-0 record and the No. 1 ranking to Notre Dame last January and lost 67-58. However, they've won eight of 10 at home over the Fighting Irish (18-4, 6-3) and shot 52.4 percent to win the last two meetings there by a combined 31 points.
Notre Dame center Jack Cooley, averaging 15.0 points and 11.3 rebounds, had 17 and 10 in last season's victory over the Orange. He scored a season-high 26 and matched a season best with his second consecutive 16-rebound game in a 79-71 overtime victory at DePaul on Saturday.
Ranked as high as 17th this season, the Irish have won three straight by eight or fewer points since dropping three of four, pushing them back into the rankings this week.
Notre Dame is 3-1 on the road this season - all in Big East play.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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