The No. 2-ranked Syracuse Orange will face their toughest road challenge this season, as they travel to the streaking No. 19 Louisville Cardinals for a Big East Conference men's basketball "Big Monday" showdown (7 p.m. on ESPN) at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville, KY.
For a full preview of the contest, check the Syracuse basketball StoryStream. Meanwhile, here's are some tidbits about Syracuse's victory over UConn, 85-57, Saturday at a packed Carrier Dome that featured 33,430 fans.
The "Tremendous" Award went to...
There's been a common theme during Jim Boeheim's post-game press conference, and that's the use of the word "tremendous" to describe Syracuse's player of the game. The last two times Boeheim used the word, it was to describe the the point guard play of Scoop Jardine. After Saturday's victory, it was to make sure everyone knew how good sophomore forward C.J. Fair played.
"Obviously, C.J. Fair was tremendous tonight," said Boeheim in his opening statement about Fair who tallied eight of his 14 points in the second half and collected a collegiate-best 12 rebounds. "He's been working hard this week. When he has a bad game, he takes it to heart. He really went to work the last few days shooting the basketball and it payed off big time tonight. He was tremendous."
Fair also dished out two assists to senior point guard Scoop Jardine, who nailed two huge 3-pointers on back-to-back SU possessions that pushed its lead from two points to eight, 69-61, with 5:07 remaining.
However, Fair's impact was obviously shown in the stat sheet and the rebounding column that featured Fair collecting twice as many boards as the combined amount of SU's starting five -- Jardine (2), Fab Melo (3), Kris Joseph (1), Rakeem Christmas (0) and Brandon Triche (0).
"Today, I knew I wanted to rebound well," said Fair, "that was my main focus coming in and rebounding and hitting open shots."
"I watched the Georgetown game, and coach (Adrian) Autry was looking at rebound opportunities and asking me, 'why I didn't get this,' or 'why such and such didn't get that'".
For Boeheim, he's always had confidence in Fair's ability to get the ball after missed shots and admitted, just a few days after ripping his team for a lousy rebounding effort in a victory over Georgetown, that sometimes luck is involved when it comes to snagging boards.
"He's a pretty good rebounder, overall," said Boeheim of Fair, "Sometimes its just position (or) where the ball comes in the zone. I thought, he was more aggressive gettin' it and it seemed that more balls came his way. Kris Joseph played the whole game and had one rebound."
Entering the game, Syracuse had been outrebounded by double-digits in four of their last six contests, however, the Orange tallied 31 rebounds to UConn's 29 Saturday.
Fab's new weapon...
In the first 7 1/2 minutes of Syracuse's victory over UConn Saturday, sophomore center Fab Melo showcased something that fans have seen a bit of this season -- a mid-range jumper from a 7-footer.
Melo tallied SU's first two points with a jumper from near the foul line, and did it again on back-to-back possessions around the 13-minute mark to help the Orange tie the game at 14. Melo was perfect with his jumpers until he missed from around the same spot but on the opposite end of the floor 30 seconds into the second half.
"I made the first jump shot, so I was confident and I kept shooting," said Melo after the game. "I told the coach, I am going to shoot it until I miss."
"I make them in practice, so why can't I make them in a game," continued Melo, who failed to tally a point in the second half of his eight-point, two-rebound effort. "Coach didn't have the confidence for me to shoot, but he's like that. I am sure late in the game, I won't be doing that but when I have the opportunity to shoot I'll keep shooting."
Behind the post-game press conference podium, Boeheim said this when asked about the Mel's long range.
"Yeah, well," Jim Boeheim said to a chorus of laughter. "He's a decent shooter, he really is. I'll let him shoot a shot, if he missed his first couple then I say, 'that's it'. He made three, I wasn't going to stop him then, but the last one I said that's enough of that."
"(He) just said 'calm down, calm down,'" said Melo to his coaches' reaction when he told him to stop shooting, "and I said, 'alright, alright'".
Melo's shooting makes me think two things: First, what a great weapon to add this time of the season. If Melo can knock down one or two jumpers at the start of the game, it opens up the offense even more.
My second thought, I hope Melo decides to come back because just imagine how much better he could be next season if he stays and works on that part of his game for a full offseason?
Jardine is playing for a National Championship
The star of Saturday's contest was Jardine, who tallied nine of his game-best 21 points in the final 6 1/2 minutes. His two 3-pointers on back-to-back possession to push Syracuse's lead from two to eight points were critical in cementing the Orange's fifth straight victory and 20th consecutive at the Dome.
Inside the locker room after the game, Jardine was asked about if he felt any pressure to make plays as the game began to get tighter.
"No," said Jardine, "a good team like UConn they're going to keep chipping away. Any team in the Big East is going to keep chipping away trying to make good plays. They play against our zone so much, so we're going to give up some. For the most part, we knew we could continue to score all we had to do was get a couple of stops."
The interview then turned to SU's home-winning streak and if, because he's a senior playing in his final year as an Orange, does he feel the urge to protect his home court.
"I am not just protecting the Dome," said Jardine passionately. "I am protecting everything. We're trying to win a National Championship. I don't want to lose a game. Every time I see Notre Dame, I get sick to my stomach because we could be undefeated right now. For the most part, we're just going to continue to win basketball games and play Syracuse basketball and see where we're at come March."
For more post-game Syracuse vs. UConn info, check back to this StoryStream. On Monday, Syracuse plays at the Louisville Cardinals for a Big East "Big Monday" showdown on ESPN. Make sure to follow along on Twitter at SBNationNY or JaredSmithCNY, as we live blogged from the Carrier Dome.
Check out, the SB Nation's blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to discuss everything on the Orange.