Syracuse is making a conscientious effort to step up its play on the defensive end. This doesn't bode well for a Seton Hall team that has one of the Big East's worst offenses.
Off to their best start in a decade, the fourth-ranked Orange look to win a fifth straight over the Pirates on Saturday at the Prudential Center.Syracuse (15-0, 2-0) hasn't played since defeating then-No. 15 Notre Dame 70-58 last Saturday. Kris Joseph led the Orange with 18 points and a season-best eight rebounds, Scoop Jardine had 15 points and nine assists and Rick Jackson added 12 points and six blocked shots.Jackson did an excellent job controlling the paint and forcing Notre Dame to take poor shots. The Irish came in ranked second nationally in shooting at 52.5 percent, and Syracuse held them to 20 points below their 78.4 scoring average.The Orange have held six of their last nine opponents to 59 points or fewer."Playing good defense is what we want to do to win games," said Joseph, who is averaging 23.3 points on 59.5 percent shooting in his last three contests. "We know some nights our offense will not be there. So we just always have to play good defense."The Orange, off to their best start since opening 19-0 in 1999-2000, seemingly shouldn't have much trouble defensively against Seton Hall.The Pirates (7-8, 1-2) have lost four of five, averaging 58.3 points on 35.2 percent shooting in those defeats.They're coming off a dismal performance, shooting a season-low 29.0 percent and having nine of their shots blocked in losing to Louisville 73-54 on Wednesday. The game got out of hand early with the Cardinals scoring 24 of the game's first 26 points."It's tough to come back when you're down 24-2," Pirates coach Kevin Willard said.Seton Hall did a good job of hanging with Syracuse in their only meeting last season before losing 80-73. The Pirates, however, will be without the one player who single-handedly kept them in that game.Senior Jeremy Hazell had 38 points against the Orange last season and has routinely given Jim Boeheim's team problems, averaging 29.3 points in the last three meetings, but he has been out since November with a broken left wrist. He was also shot in his right arm as a victim in an attempted robbery on Christmas Day, but has since rejoined the team.Without Hazell, who scored 72 points in his only three games this season, the Pirates have been relying on senior Jeff Robinson and freshman Fuquan Edwin to carry the offense.Robinson is averaging a team-best 12.2 points and Edwin, who had a career-best 18 points against Louisville, has reached double digits in scoring in each of his last eight games.Joseph is averaging a team-best 15.1 points for the Orange, and scored 16 off the bench against Seton Hall last season.The Orange have won four straight over the Pirates since a 68-61 loss on Jan. 29, 2006, and 10 of the last 12 meetings.This will be Seton Hall's first game against a ranked team since falling to then-No. 22 Temple 62-56 in its season opener. The Pirates, losers of 13 of 14 to Top 25 foes, have dropped four straight against ranked opponents -- all on the road -- since beating then-No. 9 Pittsburgh 64-61 at home Jan. 24.