The Syracuse University men's basketball program faces its most daunting challenge of its 2011-12 campaign Friday night, as the University of Florida travels to the Carrier Dome for a non-conference contest (7 p.m. ET on ESPN), which is a part of the Big East-SEC Challenge. The Orange (7-0), who are ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 3 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, will play its first-ranked opponent in the Florida Gators (5-1, ranked No. 10/9), who have rallied from a 81-74 loss to Ohio State University (No. 2/2), Nov. 15, with four straight victories.
Syracuse is coming off a dominating win over East Michigan University, 84-48, Tuesday night. Junior forward James Sutherland paced the Orange with 19 points, which tied a collegiate-best, while SU dissected the Eagles' 2-3 zone by knocking down a season-best 13 3-pointers.
Overall, junior forward Kris Joseph leads Syracuse in scoring with 14.9 points per game, while Southerland (11.9 ppg) and sophomore guard Dion Waiters (11.0 ppg) have each come off the bench to be second and third in scoring, respectively.
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As for the Billy Donovan led Gators, who enter the contest as 5 1/2-point underdogs, they are so far living up to its preseason expectations, which had them finishing in third place in the Southeastern Conference. Florida's only hiccup came a few weeks ago against the Buckeyes, who forced16 turnovers out of the Gators.
Junior guard Kenny Boynton, who was named to the All-SEC Preseason Second Team and is the team's leading scorer with 18.5 ppg, netted just 15 points against Ohio State. Since then, Boynton (6-foot-2, 183-pounds) has compiled three 20-plus point performances.
Florida's solid starting backcourt is rounded out by freshman Bradley Beal (6-3, 207), who is slowly moving his way into Freshman Of The Year honors. So far this season, Beal is the Gators second-leading scorer (17.0 ppg) and has already posted two double-doubles -- 12 points and 10 rebounds against North Florida, Nov. 17, and 22-10 against Stetson.
Inside, sophomore forward Patric Young(6-9, 245) is the Gators leading rebounder (7.7 per game). Young is also netting 10.2 ppg.
Overall, the Gators can shoot the 3-ball (42.9-percent from behind the arc) pretty well and that will help them tremendously against Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense. Not surprisgly, Florida's 3-point attack is led by Boynton (22-of-45, 48.9-percent) and Beal (12-of-34, 50-percent).
SB Nation New York will be sitting in press row at the Carrier Dome Friday night, as the Syracuse Orange host the Florida Gators. Be sure to check out, SB nation's Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician for everything SU, while Alligator Army has the inside track on the Gators. Follow along on Twitter at SBNationNY or JaredSmithCNY.