Syracuse will finish off 2013 and non-conference play when they host Eastern Michigan on New Year’s Eve. Here’s a quick look at the game:
STEADY IMPROVEMENT: Former Syracuse assistant coach Rob Murphy, now in his third season at EMU, has been steadily building his roster and improving his team. Murphy started his career with a 14 win season before improving to a 16 win season last year. The calendar hasn’t turned yet, and Eastern Michigan has already tallied seven wins, though none of those have come against teams from power conferences. Part of the problem has been rebounding. EMU employs a familiar 2-3 zone, and, like Syracuse, struggles in rebounding. The Eagles are 212th in the NCAA at 35.1 boards a game, and have been outrebounded by double digits against ranked opponents Duke, Kentucky and UMass. The Eagles have also been outrebounded in seven of their last eight games. “To be successful,” Murphy said follow the team’s loss to Duke, “We have to rebound the basketball and we didn’t do a great job of that tonight.”
SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Murphy has taken his 2-3 zone to the rust belt, and it is anchored by former Syracuse center Da’Shonte Riley. The fifth-year senior has blossomed into one of the top big men in the MAC, and is averaging 3.5 blocks per game to go along with 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. Moraine Valley Community College transfer Karrington Ward has emerged as the team’s top scoring option, pouring in 15.2 points per game, though he has struggled against high-major teams. The Eagles favor a more deliberate pace on offense, and as a result, are 214th in the NCAA in scoring at 71.5 points per game.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: This will be the third straight year that the two teams have played each other. The last two seasons, Syracuse has won by the same score of 84-48. Last year, Brandon Triche’s 12 points and 5 assists led SU to the rout. Syracuse holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series, with EMU winning the first game between the two teams in 1996.
GAME INFORMATION: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 3 p.m. at the Carrier Dome. TV: ESPNU.