Syracuse

Syracuse fell to Providence for the first time in five seasons, on Wednesday night despite several notable individual games from Orange stars, who could not prevent the Friars from pulling out a 100-94 victory.

Syracuse was ranked No. 15 going into the game and looking for redemption after suffering its first consecutive loss of the season (and second home loss) on Sunday against Louisville. The defeat at the hands of the Friars extends the Orange’s losing streak to three games and drops the team to 17-5 (5-4 Big East). Individually, Orange sophomore guard Jonny Flynn served up a career-high 35 points, including a 12-for-22 mark from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 free throws made as senior guard Eric Devendorf and sophomore forward Rick Jackson contributed 27 and 14 points, respectively. Jackson’s 10 rebounds on the night also gave him a third career double-double.

Next Game: vs. West Virginia, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 7:00 p.m.; vs. GU Saturday, Feb. 14, noon

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Louisville

It’s safe to say that the Louisville Cardinals are now the most dangerous Big East team. After victories this week over then-No. 8 Syracuse and a dominant 26-point win over USF, seventh-ranked Louisville (16-3, 7-0) is poised to return to its pre-season place in the Top 5.

Louisville and Marquette remain the only teams undefeated in Big East play, but Louisville has beaten four ranked teams in that time span (the others are Notre Dame, Villanova and Pittsburgh). The latest was a 10-point victory over the Orange, 67-57, on Sunday. Junior swingman Earl Clark led the team with 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, including a critical three-pointer that silenced the Syracuse crowd with two minutes left in the game. Senior forward Terrance Williams added 15 points, nine rebounds and five steals, while Edgar Sosa had 13 points. Playing standout defense in the second half, the Cardinals limited Syracuse to a season low in points scored and shooting percentage, in which the Orange managed to make only two baskets in the final seven minutes of the game.

Solidifying its Big East reputation, Louisville pounded the South Florida Bulls on Wednesday night, forcing 21 turnovers and scoring 80 points, sparked by a 22-3 run in the second half. Freshman forward Samardo Samuels electrified the crowd on back-to-back dunks as the Cardinals won in their 800th game at their home court.

Next Game: vs. West Virginia, Sat. Jan. 31 noon. At GU, Feb. 23rd 7 p.m.

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Notre Dame

Despite a 29-point, 17-rebound effort from junior forward Luke Harangody, Notre Dame fell on Monday night to No. 8 Marquette by a 71-64 margin. Notre Dame’s 45-game home winning streak came to a screeching halt on Saturday at the hands of No. 2 Connecticut before becoming a two-game losing streak on Monday, dropping the Irish to 12-7 overall and 3-5 in conference play. Trailing Marquette for virtually the entire game, the Irish managed to knot the score at 59 with 4:15 left on the clock, only to have the Golden Eagles go on a 12-5 run during that time to put the Irish away and remain perfect in Big East play. Marquette senior guard Wesley Matthews ignited the Eagles’ stretch run by sinking a pair of free throws and then picking Notre Dame junior guard Tory Jackson’s pocket at the other end of the court, converting the turnover into another two points on a fast-break layup.

Next: at Pitt, Saturday, Jan. 31, noon; vs. GU, Jan. 5, W 73-67

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Connecticut

If it wasn’t for Georgetown, Connecticut would easily be the top-ranked basketball team in the country – and it very well may be anyway after Duke’s loss to Wake Forest. The No. 2 Huskies (19-1, 6-1) continue to improve their résumé as they are now the only Big East team with one loss overall. With recent wins over then-No. 19 Notre Dame and DePaul, Connecticut flexed its defensive muscle.

In South Bend last Saturday, Connecticut ended Notre Dame’s 45-game home winning streak, the longest in the country, in a 69-61 win. Senior forward Jeff Adrien led the way with 12 points and 19 rebounds, while junior center Hasheem Thabeet added nine points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Overall, Connecticut’s defense forced Notre Dame to shoot a season low 33 percent while the Huskies grabbed 52 rebounds and only sent Notre Dame to the free throw line four times. Thabeet’s presence down low forced a lot of Notre Dame’s players to miss easy buckets inside, lending to Notre Dame’s low shooting percentage.

In a second straight road game at DePaul, Connecticut played one of its best defensive games all season, limiting DePaul to just 14 second-half points and 49 overall in a 71-49 victory. Junior guard Jerome Dyson led the way with 18 points, while senior guard A.J. Price added 12 points. Adrien had yet another double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Thabeet had 11 points, three blocks and three steals. The Huskies shot 47 percent from the field overall and grabbed 41 rebounds.

Next Game: vs. Providence, Sat. Jan. 31, 4 p.m.; vs. GU Dec. 29th, L74-63

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Pittsburgh

After being bounced out of the No. 1 spot by Louisville, No. 3 Pittsburgh (18-2, 6-2) now faces losing a spot in the Top 5 after a ten-point loss to No. 21 Villanova on Wednesday night, 67-57. The loss was just the third time the Panthers had been limited to under 60 points in a game, which was unexpected after Pittsburgh took a 31-26 lead into halftime. However, a dismal second half led to the Panthers undoing. The second period saw Pittsburgh go 0-for-10 from three-point range, get outrebounded 19-16 and outscored 41-26. The Panthers’ struggles were due in a large part to their foul trouble (23 fouls overall), particularly for their star center, sophomore DaJaun Blair. Blair’s foul troubles have been the main weakness for Pittsburgh, exactly as they were in the Panthers’ only other loss at the hands of Lousiville. Blair is fourth in the nation in rebounding, but if he cannot stay out of foul trouble then the Panthers lose their most potent weapon. Senior forward Sam Young led the Panthers with 14 points and nine rebounds, but missed some critical shots of his own in the final minutes of the game.

Pittsburgh needs to show it can win in big games. Criticized for having a soft schedule (which did not include any out-of-conference ranked teams) Pitt is now 2-2 versus ranked Big East opponents this year, but only has three more games against ranked teams in the (Marquette and twice against Connecticut).

Next Game: vs. Notre Dame, Sat. Jan 31 noon. At GU, Jan. 3rd W 74-54

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