Hawks face tall task in clash with fourth-ranked Orange

Dec 8, 2012 - 3:53 PM Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) - The Monmouth Hawks face their second Big East Conference opponent of the season on Saturday night, as they challenge the fourth-ranked Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome.

Monmouth was manhandled at Notre Dame (84-57) earlier this season, the first of three straight losses for the club. To their credit though, the Hawks bounced back to win four in a row before suffering an 85-66 defeat to visiting Navy on Wednesday. Monmouth is just 1-3 in true road games, and the team will play five of its next six outside of West Long Branch, New Jersey, the one home game in that stretch being against another Big East squad in Villanova (Dec. 22). MU kicks off Northeast Conference play at Wagner on Jan. 3, 2013.

Syracuse is a perfect 7-0, with six wins coming by double digits. The Orange were most recently in action on Thursday against visiting Long Beach State, and the 49ers proved to be no match for the No. 4 team in the nation as they fell in an 84-53 final. SU is coached by the legendary Jim Boeheim, who is just three wins shy of 900 for his career. Syracuse has won 47 consecutive regular-season, non-conference games. Additionally, the Orange have won a school-record 27 straight home games, which is the longest current streak in the nation. Syracuse opens the Big East portion of its schedule on Jan. 2, 2013 at home versus Rutgers.

This bout marks the first-ever meeting between Monmouth and Syracuse in men's basketball.

With a record right around .500, it's not surprising that Monmouth averages roughly the same number of points it allows (69.0 to 69.3 ppg). The team is shooting just 41.2 percent from the field, which includes a dismal 29.5 percent showing from 3-point land, but foes are faring even worse in converting a mere 27.7 percent of their long-range attempts. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Hawks are being outmuscled on the glass by an average of 9.0 rpg. The squad commits 16.0 turnovers per game, but goads the opposition into an eye-popping 22.1 miscues per outing. Andrew Nicholas (15.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is the team's only double-digit scorer coming in, but he is just 38.8 percent accurate from the field. Balance is the key as five guys average between 7.9 and 9.1 ppg. Monmouth squandered a 37-32 halftime lead in its recent outing against Navy, as the Midshipmen nearly doubled the Hawks' output after the break, outscoring them 53-29 in the half to claim the 19-point win. Stephen Spinella scored 16 points, Nicholas added 15 and Marcus Ware tacked on 13 off the bench to lead the home team, but 17 turnovers and a 28.0 percent effort from 3-point land proved fatal. It also didn't help that Navy made good on 57.1 percent of its total shots, including 65.5 percent over the final 20 minutes.

Syracuse has steamrolled the competition here in the early going, outscoring them by 25.2 ppg (81.3 ppg to 56.1 ppg). The Orange are shooting 45.8 percent from the field, but draining just 30.7 percent of their 3-point attempts, while frustrating foes into a paltry .330 field goal percentage, which includes a 25.0 percent effort from beyond the arc. Additionally, SU owns favorable margins in both rebounding (+9.8) and turnovers (+4.3), while boasting four double-digit scorers led by James Southerland and Brandon Triche with 14.6 and 14.4 ppg, respectively. Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair combine for 23.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. Fair notched his second double-double of the season with 16 points and a career-high 13 boards in the recent win over Long Beach State. Carter-Williams notched his third straight double-double consisting of 15 points and 10 assists, while Rakeem Christmas tallied a personal-best 11 points to go along with five rebounds and two blocks. Trevor Cooney chipped in 11 points off the bench, matching his career high. The Orange dominated the glass (53-39), took advantage of 18 turnovers, and held the 49ers to 29.2 percent field goal efficiency, which included a 5- of-24 effort from downtown.

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