It wasn't the "Big Three" that helped the No. 4-ranked Syracuse Orange beat the AP poll's No. 25-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats, 67-52, Saturday afternoon. Nope, it was the "Unexpected Three" that helped the Orange start the second half with a 16-0 run and earn their 18th straight victory. Currently, Syracuse is one of four teams in the nation who remain undefeated -- No. 2 Ohio St. Buckeyes, No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks and No. 6 San Diego St. Aztecs.
The win sets up a potential Top-5, Big Monday showdown between No. 4 Syracuse and No. 5 Pittsburgh Panthers at the Peterson Events Center (7:30 p.m. on ESPN). Pittsburgh hosts the Seton Hall Pirates Saturday night (7 p.m.).
Usually, the trio of senior guard Scoop Jardine, junior forwards Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson lead SU to victory. However, a different tale was told Saturday as sophomore guard Brandon Triche, junior forward James Southerland and freshman center Fab Melo -- nope, that's not a typo -- propelled the Orange to a 5-0 conference record.
(Read about Melo's performance.)
Starting the second half, which began with SU leading 35-31, Triche, Southerland and Melo each scored 2-point baskets that led to a Cincinnati 30-second timeout. Out of the break, Triche and Southerland both nailed 3-pointers to force another Bearcat timeout. Jackson then Melo added inside baskets to cap the run and give the Orange a 51-31 lead.
SU never looked back despite not playing with its leading scorer, Joseph, who left with a head injury with 6:27 to play in the first half.
(Boeheim updates Joseph's status.)
Jackson earned his 11th double-double of the season, compiling a team-best 15 points and 11 rebounds. Triche netted 11 points and three assists. Southerland had eight points and rebounds. Melo scored six points and tied a collegiate-best with four blocks.
In the first eight minutes of the first half, Syracuse jumped out to a 18-3 lead. However, Cincinnati caught fire behind the 3-point arc to climb within four points at the half.
The Bearcats, which started the game 3-for-12 on 3-pointers, finished the first half with nine threes. The Syracuse 3-point defense stepped up in the second half as the Bearcats finished the game 11-for-28 from 3-point land.