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The basketball gods have this thing they call "Rivalry Week." This required Syracuse to play three games in six days: two of them against top-20 teams, two of them against arguably the most hated teams from a Syracuse fan's perspective, and one of them on the road. Just how Syracuse would get through this stretch would help dictate the rest of the season.
After last Wednesday's overtime win over Georgetown, the Orange had until Saturday to regroup and prepare for UConn. This isn't your father's UConn, however. It's not even last year's UConn. A shell of its former self, this UConn is finding out what it's like to suck. Like, for reals. They can't win games, they don't have their head coach, and they're just coming off the sobering news that even if they figure out how to win games next season, it will be an exercise in futility as they have a 1-year NCAA post-season ban. And so, with that serving as the backdrop of Saturday's game in the Carrier Dome, UConn had its work cut out in order to win. That's exactly what it didn't do. Though there were a few points in the game, even in the second half, where it got close, Syracuse used a couple of patented runs to pull away and earn the victory, 85-67.
- Scoop Jardine had what head coach Jim Boeheim referred to as his best game of the season. In 30 minutes, Scoop scored 21 points on 8-9 shooting, including 4-4 from three. He also dished out six rebounds. It was nice to see Scoop step up and have one of those big games you know he can have and you know he wants to have. He can say all he wants that he just wants to be a team player and help the team win, but you know he wants to score a crap ton of points, too. If anything, let's hope this helps the Scoop Psyche.
- Syracuse had three other players in double-digit scoring: Dion Waiters (18), Kris Joseph (15), and CJ Fair (14).
- Fair's 14 points came alongside 12 rebounds for a solid double-double. I mean, yeah, he had a team-high 38 minutes played, but when you're playing that well, you get rewarded with minutes.
- Syracuse had a starter join Club Trillion: in two minutes, Rakeem Christmas recorded no statistics. Other Club Trillion members in this game included Michael Carter-Williams (also two minutes), and Nick Resavy (less than a minute).
- That's right: walk-ons saw (junk) time in a Big East game against the Connecticut UConn Huskies.
- Though he lit up Syracuse for 18 points, Jeremy Lamb couldn't do it all for UConn. The UConn offensive effort was largely neutralized due to Alex Oriaki who, in limited 14 minutes, scored only two points. And Andre Drummond hurt his ankle which, I'm told, was kind of a big deal.
- Syracuse shot 59.3% to UConn's 44.2%, which was nice, but the big number was Syracuse from three, winning that battle 62.5% to 42.1%.
- George Blaney trolled the sidelines for UConn, again subbing in for Jim Calhoun who didn't make the trip due to his ongoing back pain. Though we love to hate UConn and love to hate Calhoun, these games are always better when we can beat him. But if he never gets to coach again, the state of Connecticut can start saving some dimes again.
- The crowd of 33.430 in the Carrier Dome was the largest of the season, both at Syracuse and nationally. As expected.
- Tim Higgins in the Carrier Dome was the largest of the season, both at Syracuse and nationally. As expected.
So then, with little time to take in the win over UConn, the Orange had to shift its focus to a Louisville team that nobody on the roster had ever beaten. For Syracuse's final appearance on Big Monday in the 2011-2012 season, they entered the KFC Yum! Center eager for a win, eager to exorcise demons, eager to put Rick Pitino back in his place. Scoop would be entering the game with some swagger, and he and Kris would want that elusive win over the Cardinals. This was a frustrating game to watch, both from the level of basketball played by both teams, and the utter incompetence of the officiating crew. If the Big East pays these refs by the whistle, let's just say the drinks are on Jim Burr tonight. Literally and figuratively. Despite it all, Syracuse escapes with the one-point win, 52-51, and heads back to Syracuse to hit some classes for the week.
- CJ Fair, who's nothing but consistent, was the leading scorer for the Orange. His 13 points on 5-12 shooting often times kept the Orange in the game. Louisville often times came out in the zone, and CJ Fair seems to be the only player for Syracuse who can position himself inside the zone to have a chance to score. Everyone else just tries to create ball screens outside the arc.
- Scoop Jardine had a Scoop being Scoop game. Zero points on 0-8 shooting. Maybe it's the law of averages. Maybe it's a psychological thing. But the momentum Scoop should have had coming out of that UConn game TWO DAYS AGO just didn't exist.
- Fab Melo had a pretty decent game, with eleven points and six rebounds, and also drew a charge or two. He showed some great hustle out there, and his defense at the back of the zone got better after he remembered the game plan of not having to come forward to cover a crappy shooter.
- Speaking of the Syracuse defense, they played well tonight. In fact, Louisville did not score a field goal for over ten minutes -- virtually to the end of the first half. Though that may be more of an indictment of the Louisville offense, some credit is certainly due to the Syracuse defense.
- Syracuse shot an abysmal 1-15 from beyond the arc (6.7%). That one three-pointer was, and I'm sure you've already seen, Syracuse's only offense from outside the paint. That's an amazing stat, when you consider how difficult it seemed Syracuse was having getting the ball inside the Louisville zone.
- To a large extent, though, credit that inside scoring to the 16 offensive rebounds Syracuse was able to pull down. While that's the same number as Louisville had, it seemed Syracuse was able to do more with it.
- In a game where the overall shooting percentages were virtually identical (Syracuse 34.4%, LVille 34.7%), rebounding essentially the same (39-37 LVille), two stats that probably made the difference in the one-point margin of victory for Syracuse were steals and free throws. Syracuse had 12 steals. Louisville went 12-21 from the line. It's hard to win games -- especially close games -- with numbers like those.
- Syracuse played much of the second half without Kris Joseph, who sat the bench with four fouls.
- At one point in the second half, official Jim Burr called a foul under the basket. Then, in all his wisdom, he wasn't sure who he called the foul on. Add your own commentary to that. I, for one, am impressed that he didn't then just get so frustrated that he just walked off the court. So, you know, silver lining for him.
- Louisville attempted a white-out for this sold out game, and coach Rick Pitino got into it too. White suit. Colonel Sanders, Don Johnson, John Travolta, Mark Twain, and now Rick Pitino. Thanks for those graphics, ESPN. And the wonderful Photoshop.
- Syracuse, after that three-games-in-six-days juggernaut, now gets some time off before traveling to Rutgers for a matchup at the RAC on Sunday.
Labels: Syracuse Basketball