Syracuse Basketball: Orange need to end 2019 on a positive note vs Niagara

Syracuse basketball will put the finishing touches on its out-of-conference calendar when the Orange hosts Niagara on Saturday evening.

Syracuse basketball has one game remaining in 2019, a home tilt against in-state foe Niagara this Saturday night.

Following that contest, the new year arrives, the Orange will have completed its non-conference docket, and Atlantic Coast Conference play will kick back into gear.

The current campaign has definitely proven a tad frustrating for ‘Cuse fanatics, myself included, as Syracuse will enter 2020 with at least five losses, and hopefully no more than that.

The Orange (7-5) is still a work on progress, particularly on defense, although the Syracuse offense has shown some promise in recent match-ups, like the consecutive conquests of North Florida and Oakland on the Hill.

Niagara (2-8), slotted at No. 10 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll, is experiencing a challenging 2019-20 stanza at this juncture. Its pair of successes are against Colgate in overtime and Norfolk State by four points. The bevy of the Purple Eagles’ setbacks are by decisive margins, and the Orange is a heavy favorite in this encounter.

Niagara is guided by first-year head coach Greg Paulus, a Syracuse native who starred in basketball and football while at the Christian Brothers Academy. Paulus, who became the Purple Eagles’ boss somewhat suddenly when Patrick Beilein resigned due to personal reasons, also suited up at quarterback for the ‘Cuse as a graduate transfer for one season. I’m super pumped that Paulus has reached the head-coaching level, regardless of how Niagara is presently faring.

The Purple Eagles are generating 67.9 points per affair while allowing an enormous 80.3 points. Niagara connects on 43.4 percent from the field, an impressive 77.9 percent from the charity stripe, and a so-so 32.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The rest of the Purple Eagles’ per-meeting averages are fairly pedestrian, such as 26.5 rebounds, 12.3 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 12.0 turnovers committed. They do, however, secure 6.4 steals, which is solid. Three guys in Niagara’s line-up notch double-figures in scoring, led by senior guard James Towns, who collects 15.2 points every 40 minutes.

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These two schools reside about 2.5 hours from each other, and the all-time series edge goes to Syracuse, 53-28, with the Orange having captured eight in a row. The ‘Cuse shouldn’t have too much trouble extending its overall advantage versus the Purple Eagles, which would propel Syracuse into 2020 on a three-duel triumph streak.

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