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December 28, 2011
Syracuse is used to using non-conference play to get off to a fast start.
What it isn't used to is losing at home by the margin it fell to Seton Hall at the Carrier Dome last season.
The top-ranked Orange will try to halt the Pirates' eight-game win streak and earn a measure of revenge Wednesday night in the Big East opener for both teams.
Syracuse has opened with 13 victories for the third straight season, starting 18-0 a year ago.
Seton Hall (11-1) is off to its best start since the 1992-93 team began 13-1, and has won eight straight for the first time since an 8-0 start two seasons ago.
The Orange are looking for payback after falling 90-68 at home to the Pirates on Jan. 25, 2011. It marked Syracuse's worst home loss since an 85-61 defeat to Seton Hall on Feb. 7, 1998, and ended the Pirates' five-game overall slide in the series.
"We definitely owe them a better game than last year," said Orange guard Dion Waiters, who logged 14 scoreless minutes as a freshman in that game. "I just can't wait to get back out there."
The Pirates shredded the Orange's 2-3 zone by shooting 54.1 percent, making 10 of 17 3-pointers. Jeremy Hazell, who has graduated, led Seton Hall with 28 points and nine boards.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim believes that the Pirates are even better this year despite losing Hazell.
"They are playing great," Boeheim said. "They are in the top-10 or 15 in the RPI. They came in here and beat us last year. They have a very good team and it will be a challenge opening the Big East."
Syracuse is also a different team without Rick Jackson, who led the Big East in rebounding last season with 10.3 per game.
Jackson won't be around to try to contain an improved Herb Pope, who is second in the conference in scoring (20.3 ppg) and rebounding (11.4 rpg). Pope is averaging 13.0 points and 15.0 boards in three career games against the Orange.
"Herb Pope is having a great year," Boeheim said. "He is one of the best big guys in the country right now. They have good senior leadership between him and Jordan Theodore. They have a good team - a really good team."
Theodore scored a career-high 26 points in Seton Hall's final tuneup, an 87-61 rout at Longwood last Friday. The final score was lopsided after the Pirates took their first lead with 9:07 remaining before halftime.
Seton Hall's superior talent was evident the rest of the way. Fuquan Edwin tied his career high with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
The talent level can't be questioned for Syracuse, which has won 11 games by double digits. The Orange are more concerned with their youth as they play for the first time since last Thursday's 80-61 win over Tulane.
"For the younger guys, they don't really know what the Big East is like, but they'll learn soon enough," said Kris Joseph, averaging 14.5 points. "As far as us, as leaders, we just have to prepare to win because we know what it's going to be like. It's going to be a dogfight for the whole 40 minutes."