Few likely think Providence can threaten Syracuse's gaudy home win streak, but with the Friars on their biggest roll in nine years, they may present a bigger challenge than expected.
The eighth-ranked Orange look to extend the nation's longest active home winning streak to 38 games Wednesday night against Providence, which has won four in a row in Big East play for the first time since 2004 - the last time it reached the NCAA tournament.
The Orange (21-4, 9-3) return home after ending a three-game road skid with a 76-65 win over Seton Hall on Saturday. They'll hope their recent road shooting - 36.0 percent in the last four games - doesn't follow them to the Carrier Dome, where they're hitting 47.0 percent of their shots.
Brandon Triche should bring plenty of confidence with him after scoring a career-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting Saturday. Triche struggled in a 66-58 loss at Connecticut last Wednesday when he was 3 of 15 from the field.
"I felt very confident. If I'm being a leader, if I'm more vocal, then I get into the game more," said Triche, the Orange's leading scorer with 14.9 points per game. "I don't worry about anything after I had a bad game. I just make sure I bounce back and do well."
Triche will need to do that against the Friars (14-11, 6-7) after going 2 of 10 for four points in a 72-66 win at Providence on Jan. 9.
Providence hasn't knocked off a ranked team on the road in 26 tries since a 66-56 victory over UConn on Jan. 24, 2004, but it has rejuvenated its season with a sharpened defense during its four-game winning streak.
The Friars are limiting opponents to an average of 55.5 points on 37.1 percent shooting over that run, and two of the wins came against ranked squads. They beat then-No. 17 Cincinnati 54-50 on Feb. 6 and then-No. 21 Notre Dame 71-54 on Saturday.
"I think they are the most underrated team in our league, quite frankly," Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey said.
Kadeem Batts has given Providence a lift, scoring at least 20 points in three straight and four of five games. He is second on the team with an average of 14.9 points.
After setting Providence's career record for assists with 671, Vincent Council is two away from matching former Syracuse guard Sherman Douglas' Big East record of 426. Council had 11 assists, a career-high 11 rebounds and seven points against the Irish.
The shooting of Bryce Cotton, who leads the conference with 20.4 points per game, will likely be key against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Cotton's 3.2 3-pointers made per game also leads the Big East.
Syracuse forward C.J. Fair had 23 points and 11 rebounds in last month's meeting, while Cotton scored a game-high 24 on 7-of-10 shooting.
The Orange have won six straight and 13 of 15 in the series, and Providence has dropped five in a row at Syracuse.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved