Maui, HI (SportsNetwork.com) - The Syracuse Orange play their first game of the 2013-14 season outside of the Carrier Dome, as they make the trek to Hawaii, to take part in the Maui Invitational, starting with first-round action against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Jim Boeheim's Orange had some holes to fill from last year's Final Four team, but look ready to make another serious run come March, as they have opened up the year with four straight wins at home, closing out their homestand with last week's 56-50 victory over St. Francis-Brooklyn.
The Golden Gophers lack a shiny Top 25 ranking, but few teams has played as well early on, as Richard Pitino's first season at the helm of the program has thus far yielded five wins in as many games. Four of those victories have come in Minneapolis, including a 79-57 rout of Wofford last time out for Minnesota.
This is just the second time these teams will be meeting. The first resulted in an 82-75 win for Minnesota in the 1990 NCAA Tournament. The winner of this game will move on to face either Arkansas or California in second-round action.
The Golden Gophers jumped all over the Terriers last week, racing to a 50-24 lead at the half before putting it in cruise control the rest of the way. Four Gophers finished in double figures in a game that saw the team shoot just over 50 percent from the floor (30-of-59). Austin Hollins had a strong game in the backcourt, posting team-highs in points (18) and assists (8). Oto Osenieks added 14 points, Elliott Eliason posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while DeAndre Mathieu tacked on 10 points for good measure. Leading scorer Andre Hollins managed just seven points, his lowest scoring output of the season.
Andre Hollins has been much more of an offensive force on the year overall, leading the team with a solid 18.8 ppg, even after the rather poor performance against Wofford. Austin Hollins is second on the team in scoring at 13.2 ppg, while Joey King (10.3 ppg) and Osenieks (10.0 ppg) round out the top scoring threats. Minnesota is averaging an impressive 80 ppg thus far, while holding foes to just 61.6.
It wasn't pretty last time out for Syracuse, which actually trailed St. Francis at home late before rallying with a 10-0 run to close out and earn the five-point win over the Terriers. The Orange couldn't find a rhythm offensively in the second half, shooting just .263 from the floor over the final 20 minutes, and a mere .353 overall. ACC Preseason Player of the Year C.J. Fair was part of the problem, as he was just 2-of-13 from the floor, finishing with just seven points. DaJuan Coleman matched his career-high with 14 points in the win. Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney added 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the win.
Syracuse is going to win a lot of games with its defensive tenacity. The Orange are yielding just 58.5 ppg this season, while owning a +13.8 rebounding margin. Fair isn't going to have many games like the last one. He still leads the Orange by a large margin in the scoring column at 18.0 ppg. Cooney adds 12.8 ppg, while Grant (11.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg) has been strong coming off the bench.