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Lehigh (1-8, 0-0 Patriot League) enters Saturday’s matchup in the Carrier Dome with just one win this season, which was a seven-point victory over Columbia.
According to KenPom, Lehigh is the lowest ranked opponent on Syracuse’s schedule this season at No. 315 nationally. The Mountain Hawks are one of just two opponents on Syracuse’s schedule that are currently ranked 300 and worse, per KenPom (Lafayette was the other at No. 300).
Here’s everything you need to know before the Mountain Hawks face off with Syracuse on Saturday evening:
Syracuse leads 4-0.
Last time they played
The two teams last met in Syracuse’s 2015-16 opener when the Orange won 57-47. Lehigh jumped out to a 9-8 lead with 13:14 left in the first half and then failed to convert another field goal for the remainder of the half. SU led by 20 going into the break, though that lead slimmed to six at one point during the second frame when Lehigh scored a spurt of points inside. Strong 3-point shooting — including multiple clutch deep shots at the end of the shot clock — re-established SU’s dominance and kept the Mountain Hawks out of reach.
Syracuse went 10-3 in nonconference play that season, losing to Wisconsin in overtime, Georgetown and St. John’s.
Syracuse is projected to win 85-65, per KenPom.
The Lehigh report
Marques Wilson was the Mountain Hawks top scorer last season, averaging 15.3 points per game through only 15 games. But in eight games this year, he’s dropped to third-top scorer, and his production has taken a dip (10.8 points per game).
No Lehigh player averages more than 12 points per game this year, and the Mountain Hawks have scored less than 50 points in two games this season. Center Nic Lynch, who started every game last season, lost his starting spot to sophomore Dominic Parolin. Lynch’s production dipped as a result from 12.1 points per game to 4.8, and Parolin averages 7.6 per game.
Guard Evan Taylor now leads the team in scoring (11.8 points per game) along with made 3-pointers. He posted 18 points in Lehigh’s only win of the season.
Defensively, the Mountain Hawks rank 29th in the nation in 2-point defense but are 303rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. They’re among the worst in the country in 3-point defense, and on the boards, they rank 290th in offensive rebounding and 149th in defensive rebounding.
How Syracuse beats Lehigh
Syracuse needs to find its stroke from beyond the arc, and the Mountain Hawks are the perfect team to do that against. Cole Swider looked impressive during SU’s preseason exhibition games, but he has yet to translate that 3-point consistency into a regular season game. His 4-of-5 game against Arizona State was the only time he’s shot over 50% from beyond the arc — he’ll enter Saturday’s matchup after going 1-of-3 against Villanova and 3-of-10 against Georgetown.
Joe Girard III leads the team in made 3-pointers and is 50% from deep, but both Buddy Boeheim and Swider are well behind him at 27.5% and 29%, respectively.
Syracuse’s defense is historically poor — it ranks 169th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, the worst the unit has ever been since KenPom started tracking stats in 1997. The matchup with the Mountain Hawks is a good chance for SU to begin sorting out its defensive issues against a lower-tier Division I school. The 1-1-3 zone only worked in small spurts, and Saturday should be used as the first steps to figuring out what to do about this defense.
Stat to know: 40.4%
Lehigh ranks 345th in the nation in defensive 3-point percentage (40.4%), a clip that’s among the bottom 15 in Division I basketball. Syracuse’s offense is built on a combination of 3-pointers falling and buckets inside via Jesse Edwards and Jimmy Boeheim. With Lehigh’s porous 3-point defense, this matchup should help the Orange begin to develop some shooting rhythm.
Player to watch: Evan Taylor, Guard, No. 5
Taylor leads the Mountain Hawks in scoring and will enter Saturday’s matchup after three straight double-digit games. He’s the team’s best 3-point shooter and finished fifth in the Patriot League in rebounding last season. Taylor’s responsible for just under a fifth of the team’s shots and will need to be contained in the Carrier Dome.