Syracuse hosts Notre Dame on Saturday at the JMA Wireless Dome at 7 p.m. (TV: ACCN). Here are four things to watch for in the game:
Will Joe Girard stay hot?
Ever since Joe Girard was shut out of scoring against Illinois on Nov. 29, Girard has been on a torrid pace. He’s been in double-figures in 10 consecutive games, and has elevated his scoring to 17.2 ppg, which leads SU. His 24 points on 10-20 shooting was a vintage performance from Girard, who scored the majority of his points insider the arc (17 points) for a game-high 24 points. Girard busted out of his early season slump against Notre Dame, when he scored 20 points on 9-18 shooting (2-10 downtown) in a surprising 62-61 win over Notre Dame. As Girard goes, so does Syracuse, and the Orange can only hope he can keep up his incredible run.
Can Jesse Edwards end his slump?
On the flip side, Jesse Edwards, once Syracuse’s leading scorer, has cooled off significantly over the past four weeks. Starting with the Dec. 12 game against Monmouth, Edwards has only shot the ball more than 10 times in a game twice. In that seven game stretch, he’s also only hit more than 50 percent of his field goals twice. Jim Boeheim lamented after the Virginia Tech game that Edwards gets pushed around far too often down low, which has limited his effectiveness. That said, Notre Dame could be just what Edwards needs to get back to his dominant self. He scored 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against the Fighting Irish in the team’s first matchup, and without a legitimate big man to match Edwards inside, he could be in for a rebound game.
Will Maliq Brown play major minutes again?
When Maliq Brown has been given extended minutes, he’s made the most of them. In his past two games, Brown has averaged 35 minutes, scoring 10.5 ppg and adding 10.0 rpg. He notched the first double-double of his career against the Hokies, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds, and did so without any of the offense being run through him. In the last eight games, Brown has played 20 or more minutes four times. In those games, he’s averaging 9.5 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Boeheim praised Brown following the Va. Tech win, saying that he’s playing starter minutes despite not being a starter. That bodes well for Brown getting more time and separating himself from the rest of the underclassmen at one of the wing spots.
Will Benny Williams play well?
Benny Williams’ maddingly inconsistent season continues. He missed Saturday’s game against Virginia with illness, and only played 8 minutes against Virginia Tech. But after playing his best game of the season against Boston College, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds, he followed that up with an uninspiring 28 minutes against Louisville where he scored just 3 points and collected only 3 rebounds. Syracuse needs him to be more consistent, and he hasn’t shown it yet.