By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- The basketball game probably won't be the focus Saturday when No. 5 Syracuse hosts local rival Colgate.
The Orange will take the floor for the first time since allegations surfaced that longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine molested two former ball boys for years.
In the wake of the Penn State football scandal surrounding former assistant Jerry Sandusky, news surfaced Thursday from ESPN of allegations made by two stepbrothers that Fine molested them in the 1980s. Fine is in his 35th season as an assistant.
The university has placed Fine on administrative leave. The coach asked for a quick review and expressed confidence he would be vindicated.
"Sadly, we live in an allegation-based society and an internet age where in a matter of minutes one's lifelong reputation can be severely damaged," Fine said in a statement released by one of his attorneys. "I am confident that, as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation. I hope the latest review of these allegations will be conducted expeditiously."
Head coach Jim Boeheim defended his friend and colleague.
"This kid came forward and there was no one to corroborate his story. Not one. Not one," Boeheim said. "... They said I walked into Bernie's room on the road and saw this. I have never walked into Bernie's room on the road. This isn't true. This just isn't true."
Chancellor Nancy Cantor sent an email to the university community saying that Syracuse has launched an investigation and that Fine "should be accorded a fair opportunity to defend himself against these accusations."
The school also announced that former Orange star Gerry McNamara will fill in for Fine on the coaching staff.
Syracuse (3-0) is tuning up for its Thanksgiving trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals. The Orange figure to have little problem defeating Colgate (1-1) for the 46th straight time after winning 100-43 last season, and will also be looking for their 26th straight non-conference home win.
Boeheim's club, which has built an average halftime lead of 18.7 points this season, defeated Albany 98-74 on Tuesday. Kris Joseph and reserve James Southerland each had 19 points.
"I think the biggest thing about these games is to get 10 guys in there and to figure out how they can play well and still limit the minutes," Boeheim said. "The minutes are limited for some guys, other guys - it's a lot of minutes for some guys."
Managing minutes shouldn't be a problem since no Orange player logged more than 25 in last season's mismatch with Colgate.
The Red Raiders suffered their first loss under new coach Matt Langel on Wednesday, 68-41 at No. 14 Wisconsin. Colgate trailed 42-20 at halftime, and will be trying to avoid a similar start Saturday.
"Sometimes it comes down to making shots and missing shots," Langel said. "The message at halftime really was the positioning, and the philosophy was not any different."
Colgate has posted three straight losing campaigns with a total of 62 defeats.
Updated November 18, 2011