Syracuse failed in a bid to get to 19-0 last season, but is showing no signs of slowing down a year later.
The top-ranked Orange can match the best start in school history Saturday night at home when they look for a second Big East victory over Providence in 11 days.Syracuse (18-0, 5-0) is one win shy of the 19-0 start by the 1999-2000 team. The Orange won their first 18 games last season before losing at then-No. 5 Pittsburgh.No other Big East team is ranked in the top 10 and Syracuse is posting conference-best marks of 80.6 points per game and 49.0 percent shooting. That level of efficiency was evident as the Orange built a 19-point halftime lead in Wednesday's 79-66 win at Villanova.Syracuse was led by two reserves as Dion Waiters scored 20 points and James Southerland added 15."We've been able to play eight, nine guys for the most part all year," coach Jim Boeheim said. "We have different guys that come in and do different things."Waiters showed no ill effects after an awkward landing moments before halftime as he immediately grabbed his ankle and hobbled off the court with help from a team official. The Philadelphia native returned and finished with his highest point total in a Big East game while playing in his hometown."The talent level on their team is really, really impressive," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "They can beat you in so many ways. That's probably one of the most impressive things about Syracuse right now -- their depth and the multiple players in different positions that can beat you.While Syracuse used a big first half to cruise its last time out, it overwhelmed the Friars after halftime in an 87-73 victory at Providence (12-6, 1-4) on Jan. 4. The Orange shot 73.1 percent (19 of 26) and scored 51 points in the second half after leading by two at the break.Syracuse has won four straight and eight of nine over Providence, which enters on a 17-game Big East road losing streak.The Friars, though, should be confident after Tuesday's 90-59 rout of No. 14 Louisville. Providence ended a four-game overall skid by recording its largest-ever margin of victory over a ranked opponent."Just an incredible game for our guys," Cooley said. "Let's face it, we've been struggling a little bit, but I thought we were getting better."Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton each had 27 points in Providence's highest-scoring game of the season. Vincent Council added 15 points and a season-high 14 assists.The victory was even more surprising since Providence's second-leading scorer, Gerard Coleman, missed his first game with a back injury. Coleman and Council each scored 17 points in the first meeting with Syracuse.Syracuse posted season highs of 61.1 percent shooting and 58.8 percent on 3-pointers in that game.Scoop Jardine had a season-high 11 assists for the Orange and helped limit Council to five assists along with six turnovers. Council is averaging a Big East-worst 3.6 turnovers, but only had two for the second straight game Tuesday."Providence is very confident right now," Jardine said before practice Thursday. "We beat them down at their home. We just have to play Syracuse basketball and we should come out with a victory."Don't forget, we were 18-0 last year. We just try to take it one game at a time and focus on our task at hand and forget the rest."