Fireworks on Tap

Harangody was all smiles in his last home contest

A preview of tonight's matchup in South Bend vs. No. 5 Syracuse.

The 14-4 Irish host one of the nation's top teams tonight as No. 5 Syracuse makes its 15th trip to South Bend for a Big Monday matchup. Tip-off is set for 7 pm (ET) on ESPN.

At a Glance

Notre Dame: 14-4
  • Losses: Northwestern (Chicago Classic) and Loyola Marymount; at UConn and at Cincinnati (Saturday)
  • Best Win: West Virginia
  • Losses for the Selection Committee's Consideration: home vs. LMU; at Cincinnati.

Syracuse: 17-1
  • Loss: Pittsburgh
  • Best wins: at North Carolina; Cornell; vs. Florida; Memphis; at West Virginia (Saturday)
  • Loss for the Selection Committee's Consideration: None

Meet the Orange

Head coach Jim Boeheim is in his 34th season at Syracuse and owns a staggering 816-269 record (the Orange have failed to win at least 20 games just twice in his tenure). After two NCAA Finals losses in 1987 and 1996, Boeheim won his first championship behind the play of freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara in 2003.

  • Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson has helped alleviate the loss of three starters from last season. The junior forward has averaged over 37 minutes per game in five Big East contests, scoring nearly 17 points per contest while grabbing 10 rebounds per game, including a career-best 19 boards in a conference-opening win at Seton Hall. Johnson has been at his best in big games, scoring 25 points in an upset win at North Carolina and averaging 18 points and 8 boards vs. Florida, Pittsburgh, and Memphis.

    He's an excellent passer, gets in the lane, and has the quickest "second jump" leaping ability west of Stanley Robinson. Johnson fought through a stomach ailment to play 37 minutes in Saturday's win at No. 8 West Virginia.

  • Though just 11-32 from beyond the arc over five Big East contests, senior guard Andy Rautins is one of the most dangerous 3-point shooting weapons in the conference. The senior guard helps facilitate Syracuse's half-court offense, leading the Orange with 5.3 assists per game. He hurt the Irish with 10 points and 3 steals in just 22 minutes during last January's Syracuse victory at the Carrier Dome.

  • The big man tandem of junior Rich Jackson and senior Arinze Onuaku combined to score 33 points (on 15 of 22 from the field) and grab 18 boards in last season's contest. The 6'9" 240-pound Jackson is second on the squad this season with 7.1 rebounds per game. He's connected on nearly 58 percent of his field goal attempts and, in keeping with the great tradition of Syracuse power forwards, only 53 percent of his offerings from the free throw line.

    Speaking of free throw woes, Onuaku has hit just 17 of 39 attempts this season (and an incredible 37 of 124 last season). But the 6'9" 261-pound center has cemented himself on the low block and in the lane again this season, and connected on better than 67 percent of his shots from the field en route to 9.9 points per contest.

  • Freshman point guard Brandon Triche has helped steady the Orange ship after the NBA defection of sublime point guard Johnny Flynn. The 6'4" Triche ranks second on the squad at 10.5 points per game while logging just under 22 minutes per contest (Triche has averaged more than 24 minutes of court time in Big East action). Triche is a selective three-point threat, hitting 22 of 49 shots from long range this season, though a 6-6 effort vs. Oakland skews those numbers (the freshman is 5-15 over his last six games).

  • Backup point guard Scoop Jardine ranks second on the team in assists (4.9 per game) and provides pace off the bench, scoring more than 8 points in just over 21 minutes of action. Sophomore forward Kris Joseph has emerged of late, scoring in double digits in eight of the ‘Cuse's last 12 contests. Joseph can also do damage on the glass, grabbing seven or more rebounds in eight games this season off the bench. Joseph is one of seven Syracuse regulars that average better than 21 minutes of playing time.

The Last Time

Syracuse pounded the Irish, 93-74 at the Carrier Dome. The Orange put six players in double figures led by Onuaku's 19 points while 1st Round NBA Draft pick Johnny Flynn added 17 points and 9 assists. Luke Harangody led the Irish with 25 points and 16 rebounds (though he missed 19 shots) while Kyle McAlarney scored 24 points hitting seven 3-point baskets.

Stats and Streaks

  • The Harangody-led Irish are 3-1 vs. the Orange, including a Joyce Center win in 2008 and Big East Tournament victory in '07. Syracuse had previously won 11 of the 13 games played since January 2000 and is 10-4 in South Bend since 1985.
  • Notre Dame is 1-1 vs. ranked opponents this season. The Irish haven't defeated a top 4 opponent since Alabama in December 2006. The Irish are 26-3 in their last 29 Big East home games.
  • Already second on the school's career distribution list, senior guard Tory Jackson became the second player in program history to top the 600-career assist mark (Chris Thomas is first with 833).
  • Harangody ranks 12th on the Big East's career scoring list (1,160 points) entering tonight's contest and needs to average roughly 19 points per game to break the career mark held by former Syracuse star Lawrence "Poetry in" Moten. As well, the senior from Schererville ranks sixth on the Big East's all-time rebounding ledger (584) and needs 117 total rebounds in 13 remaining conference games to pass another Syracuse and league great, Derrick Coleman, who finished with 701 boards.
  • Syracuse is favored by 3.5 points in tonight's contest.

Prediction

Syracuse will play its third road game in six nights in South Bend, and while the Irish have been lethal over the last three seasons at home, Orange coach Jim Boeheim has enjoyed impressive success during his illustrious career in the friendly confines of the ACC/JACC/Purcell Pavilion as well (a 10-4 career mark).

The Orange will begin in their trademark, well-schooled, zone defense, though that tact can backfire vs. a Notre Dame team that morph's into offensive assassins on its home floor.

Likewise, Syracuse is going to score against the Irish defense (man-to-man, 2-3 zone, with a sixth defender on the floor…you name it, Syracuse will score on ND). The key for the Irish will be to limit the visitor's second-chance points and to force the Orange's shoddy shooting big men to knock down free throws rather than semi-contested looks underneath.

(Could head coach Mike Brey allow freshmen Mike Broghammer or Jack Cooley a few fouls on Onuaku, a player who has hit just 127 of 327 career free throws…more importantly, can he afford not to?)

Expect 18-20 made three-point buckets between the teams, a bounce-back effort from Harangody, a career assist night for Ben Hansbrough attacking the Orange's middle, and a battle to the wire.

Syracuse 85 Notre Dame 80

IrishEyes.com Recommended Stories