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After two nonconference wins over Brown and Cornell, it looked like Syracuse was gaining steam ahead of Atlantic Coast Conference play. But against Virginia, the Orange kept it close before eventually allowing UVA to pull away in the second half.
Up next for SU is two away games against Miami and Wake Forest. The Hurricanes have put together a solid season so far, sitting at 11-3, and have three ACC wins already. Miami ranks 22 spots below the Orange on KenPom, however, and the outcome of Wednesday’s game should provide clarity on how the ACC will shape up.
Here’s what you need to know about Miami before Syracuse embarks on its two-game road trip:
Syracuse leads, 20-9.
Last time they played
The last time Syracuse and Miami squared off was last January when the Orange posted an easy 83-57 win over the Hurricanes.
Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard III led Syracuse with 23 points each, combining for nine made 3-pointers. The pair each shot over 50% from the floor, and Quincy Guerrier added 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting. With the large lead, head coach Jim Boeheim went into his bench, giving then-reserves Jesse Edwards and Kadary Richmond each over 20 minutes of action. After grabbing the lead midway through the first half, SU never looked back en route to a big win.
KenPom gives Miami a 57% chance of winning with a projected score of 81-79.
The Miami report
Miami has shown significant improvement after finishing 8-16 in the regular season and 4-15 in the ACC last year. But the Hurricanes did manage to put together a small run in the ACC Tournament, upsetting Pittsburgh and Clemson before falling to Georgia Tech.
The Canes are already off to a strong start this season with three ACC wins and the potential to already match last year’s total with a win over SU. Miami started the season 4-3 with losses to UCF, Dayton and Alabama but has since won seven straight games with conference wins over Clemson, Wake Forest and NC State.
The Canes are led by a dynamic backcourt duo of Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong — McGusty averages 18.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, while Wong adds 16.5 points per game. Either player is capable of scoring in bunches, with each posting season-high point totals of 25 points or more this year.
How Syracuse beats Miami
For Syracuse, the formula to beat Miami is simple: the Orange must outscore the Hurricanes. Specifically, Buddy and Girard must win their respective matchups against McGusty and Wong, as neither team has a good defense — both rank outside the top-200 in effective field goal percentage allowed defensively, per KenPom.
SU has a deep scoring team this year, with all five starters averaging double-digit points, while Miami doesn’t, as only three Hurricanes score over 10 points per game. If Buddy and Girard can keep Miami’s duo quiet, Syracuse will have a solid chance of playing with and maintaining a scoring lead throughout the game.
Player to watch: Isaiah Wong, guard, No. 2
Wong was named to the All-ACC third team last season and to the preseason All-ACC first team this year. He scored 16 points last season against Syracuse in what would eventually be a blowout win for the Orange.
In two ACC games this season, Wong is shooting over 50% from the field. He dropped 19 points on NC State, going 7-for-13, and then set a new season-high with 25 points against Wake Forest on 11-for-18 shooting.
Wong has struggled with his free-throw shooting — in his first two seasons at Miami, Wong shot around 80% from the line, but this season is down to 69%, which could prove significant near the end of a close game.
Stat to know: 53.4%
The effective field goal percentage that the Miami defense allows ranks 298th in the nation, per KenPom. On the other side of the court will be a Syracuse defense that Boeheim called out in a Monday press conference and is ranked 221st nationally. Both teams, though, are much better on offense and each have top-25 offenses on KenPom.
In a battle between two efficient offenses, Wednesday’s game will likely come down to which team can play better defense. The Hurricanes allowed 80 points in each of their last two wins but managed to score over 90 and win by a decent margin each time. After dropping a winnable game at home to Virginia, Syracuse will need to tighten up its defense against Miami to avoid falling below .500 in ACC play.