Syracuse center Fab Melo sat out for a third straight game during SU’s 63-61 win over West Virginia on Saturday afternoon. Melo is currently ineligible because of academic issues, but has still continued to practice with the team.
“Hopefully we will find out this week,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He is working through his issues.”
Melo’s absence was conspicuous.
The Orange was outrebounded 41-20, including 15 rebounds on the offensive glass. Forward Kevin Jones led West Virginia with eight rebounds.
“I think the rebounding was the problem,” Boeheim said. “Our defense is not as good without Fab.”
Rakeem Christmas has started at center in Melo’s absence and has had mixed results.
One game after playing 27 minutes against Cincinnati and finishing with nine rebounds, the freshman had just one rebound in 14 minutes before fouling out.
His backup, Baye Keita, had more success, as he finished with four points, four rebounds and three blocks.
But the rebounding burden doesn’t just fall on the centers.
“Our defensive guards have to get some rebounds,” Boeheim said. “It is really about our guards and forwards doing a better job rebounding the ball.”
SU’s guards struggled in that department, as Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine combined for just one rebound.
“Those loose balls, and rebounds, we have to get,” Joseph said. “We can’t allow teams to keep getting second and third chances to score, because eventually, they will.”
Still, Syracuse has looked like a different team without Melo in the lineup.
“No one can deny that at all,” Jardine said. “But we can be there to try and get out on them. We have two wins without him. But with Fab we are rebounding and blocking shots and we become a much better defensive team.”
Corey Mallonee contributed to this story with reporting from Syracuse.