The No. 3 Syracuse Orange managed to squeak out a victory from the jaws of defeat for the second time in 48 hours with their 57-55 win over the No. 21 Cincinnati Bearcats on Monday afternoon at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Fresh off of their improbable road win against then-No. 1 Louisville, the Orange (18-1, 6-0 Big East) used tight defense and clutch shooting from the backcourt to complete a comeback, keeping intact their 35-game home win streak, the longest such streak in the nation.
With Cincinnati (16-4, 4-3) leading 51-44, the Orange clamped down and allowed only four points in the final 5:09, while taking the lead on a tip shot by C.J. Fair off of a Jerami Grant miss.
Cincinnati gave Syracuse a dose of its own medicine by playing a suffocating 2-3 zone and limited the Orange to only 22 points in the first half.
With the score 22-18 at the break, the Bearcats when on a 10-2 run to take a four-point lead and did not relinquish that lead until Fair’s tip with 0:22 left.
Both teams seemed to be a bit hung over from their Saturday games, with Syracuse narrowly beating Louisville and Cincinnati taking out No. 25 Marquette in overtime. Both get a bit of a rest as Cincinnati will get eight days off before it gets a home game against Rutgers and Syracuse gets to lick its wounds until Saturday when it travels to Philadelphia to take on Villanova.
With the win, the Orange cemented their position atop the Big East standings, but more importantly, showed that they could overcome adversity and could rely on each other to make heady plays in the clutch.
What lies ahead for the Orange only gets tougher, however, with 12 games remaining on the schedule. Syracuse’s remaining opponents all have winning records and boast a combined 138 wins against only 59 losses.
The Big East has never seen an undefeated team in conference, but perhaps in its last year of existence as we know it, something special might be on the horizon. Last season, Syracuse went 17-1, tying the 1995-96 Connecticut Huskies for most wins all time in conference. Syracuse also tied Connecticut in regular-season conference titles last season with its 10th.
With the Cincinnati win, Syracuse is now 28-1 in its last 29 games in conference, with its only hiccup being a road loss to Notre Dame as the No. 1 team in the NCAA last season. Orange fans will remember this being the first of Fab Melo’s infamous departures from the team last season and was Syracuse’s only regular-season loss.
Of Syracuse’s 12 remaining games, six are at home and six are on the road. With the potential for a losing effort on any given night in the Big East, here are five games the Orange can circle as the most intriguing of the group.