Syracuse survived a challenge in the first game of a stretch of three in five days.
The No. 5 Orange are expecting another test Monday night, when they could be without two key freshmen as they host Morgan State.Syracuse, which will try for a second straight 12-0 start, began this busy post-exam stretch with an 83-77 victory over Iona on Saturday. The Orange also host Drexel on Wednesday in their final game before their Big East opener next Tuesday against Providence.Although Morgan State (4-4) lost to the Friars by 22 points Nov. 18, the Bears have been to consecutive NCAA tournaments and are a leading contender to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference again."They've been to the tournament two years in a row," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Obviously, we knew scheduling these games we play really good teams."Boeheim mentioned No. 7 Tennessee losing to Oakland and Charlotte this past week after beating Big East powerhouses Villanova and Pittsburgh."These games put you in pressure situations where you've got to make plays and you need to get in the situations now," he said. "The bottom line is it doesn't matter who you play. There are a lot of good teams, a lot of good basketball players."Syracuse center Fab Melo could be out after he logged five minutes Saturday due to a right calf injury. Fellow freshman C.J. Fair did not practice Sunday after he missed the second half against Iona with a sprained ankle.Melo has started all 11 games, while Boeheim called Fair's effort Saturday "the best he's played all year."The Orange have never faced Bears, and Boeheim's warnings about mid-major opponents seem to have made an impression on his team."If you go out there and you're not right on cue, these games can get really tough," forward Rick Jackson said. "These are the teams that can sneak in there and surprise you. Morgan State on Monday night is the same type of team."Jackson is among the nation's leaders with eight double-doubles and a Big East-best 12.1 rebounds per game. He will look to bounce back after finishing with a season-low eight points and eight boards against Iona.Kris Joseph had 21 points as Syracuse shot a season-high 59.3 percent. Brandon Triche added 14 points and a season-best seven of the Orange's 20 assists.The Bears have won two straight, beating winless Maryland-Baltimore County 75-62 on Saturday. DeWayne Jackson finished with 15 points as Morgan State cruised after building a 22-point lead with 4:15 left in the first half."The first 15 minutes were the best we've had all year," coach Todd Bozeman said. "But am I encouraged? Yes, I am. But then there's some concern because we didn't sustain it. It is a good thing that we started it, now we got to keep it going and build on that."DeWayne Jackson has averaged 17.5 points in his last four games after averaging 13.3 in his first four.