By Michael McAllister
Syracuse used a 17-1 run in the first half and an 8-0 run in the second half to top Louisville 58-49 in the regular season finale. It was the last home game for seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, who received rousing ovations as they were honored before the game. Louisville threatened late, cutting the lead to 10 with four minutes left. But the Orange closed the game out with solid defense and free-throw shooting. The Good
Dion Waiters and Brandon Triche both got back on track. Triche finished with a game-high 18 points on 5-10 shooting, including 3-6 from beyond the arc. He also added four rebounds, four assists, and a steal. Waiters was the second highest scorer for the Orange, contributing 13 points on 5-9 shooting (2-3 from deep). Included in Waiters performance was a highlight reel spin move and lay-in on a fast break. It was a spectacular move that brought the crowd to its feet.
Kris Joseph had a solid senior night, scoring 11 points, and adding four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
James Southerland gave Syracuse 20 very good minutes. He finished with seven points, four rebounds, and three blocks. But what wasn’t reflected in the box score was his hustle and aggressive play inside. He was very good defensively, making good rotations and blocking shots.
Fab Melo didn’t score a lot (four points on 1-3 shooting), but contributed in other ways. He was a force inside blocking four shots and grabbing eight rebounds.
Syracuse has 12 assists on 19 made baskets in this game. They were unselfish for most of the game, and often made the extra pass to set someone up for an open shot.
The Orange defense held Louisville to under 34% shooting, including 2-23 from three-point range. They forced 13 Cardinals turnovers, blocked eight shots, and had six steals. Syracuse also held every Louisville starter to six points or less.
Syracuse was also efficient from the outside, making 8-21 from beyond the arc. This was a stark contrast to the first meeting, where the only made one basket outside of the paint.
The win moved Syracuse’s record to 30-1, including 17-1 in conference. It is the best regular season in school history. The Orange also finished undefeated at home (19-0). It was only the second time in school history they finished a season undefeated at home. The last time was the 2002-03 team that won the national championship. That team was 17-0 at home.
The 17 conference wins tied the 1995-96 Connecticut team for most conference wins in a season.
It was the 14th time this season Syracuse has held their opponent under 60 points, and 5th time under 50 points.
The official attendance was 33,205. The crowd bumped Syracuse’s attendance to their largest per game since 1994-95 (23,617). The Bad
Scoop Jardine didn’t play very well on senior night. He was held scoreless on 0-4 shooting, and had just three assists and three turnovers. He played only 18 minutes in the game.
The Orange only shot 42% from the floor. While this was better than the last Louisville matchup, this team can still do better.
Syracuse was sloppy in this game, turning it over 15 times. Not good, but given how well they’ve taken care of the ball this year, let’s consider this a one game aberration. The Ugly
Rakeem Christmas was pulled after 45 seconds of action after taking a strange looking free-throw line jumper. He did not return.
Baye Keita only played five minutes, struggled defensively, and did not log a single stat in the box score. He has to be able to stay on the floor longer.
Syracuse gave up 15 offensive rebounds and were out-rebounded 37-29 overall. The overall number isn’t what’s troubling. It’s the offensive rebounds. They have been giving up far too many of them lately. Post-Game Quotes:
Jim Boeheim: “I told them there’s really four phases to a basketball season. You go through the first non-conference games in the first phase. They did what they needed to do. The conference season, they’ve done everything you could ask them to do. Now, we get ready to go New York and try to play as well as we can play in New York. And then, the NCAA tournament after that.”
Boeheim added: “They’ve done everything you could ask them to. It’s a very unselfish team. They look for each other. They’ve had just a tremendous season.”
Kris Joseph: “I knew we were going to be good. I didn’t know we were going to be this good and finish this strong. It’s just a blessing to be a part of this team.”
Kris Joseph thanks fans by tweeting after the game: “Thank you to all the fans that came out and showed support today on Senior Day. Y’all made it very special! I’ll forever love the Cuse & the Dome.”
Scoop Jardine: “We won. Man. I'd rather go out like I did, having zero points and a big win against a Louisville team that we hardly beat throughout my years than to have 30 points and a loss. That's not who I am. To get a big win on a Saturday against a team that you hardly beat. This is special. This is something I'll always remember.”
Scoop added about the upcoming Big East tournament: “To go down there and win a Big East championship would just add more to our season and what we’re trying to accomplish. What we want to do is win every game that we’re in. We played 31 games. We won 30. We’re proud of that. We’ve got nine more to go. We’re going to take it one game at a time.”
Dion Waiters: “I’m happy to be a part of history. I know it’s something that’s going to live long in Syracuse. No matter what, when you come back someone’s going to remember you for being on a 30-1 team. I couldn’t write this. I couldn’t picture this. It’s a great feeling just being a part of this team. It’s a great group of guys. I love playing with them. We have great chemistry.”
Brandon Triche: “I try to get myself going and that pretty much tells me how the game is going to go. Either hitting the shots, getting in the mix, making good plays either for myself or for the team. If I’m able to do that, I’m going to be energized, going to rebound, going to be all over the place.”
Waiters on Triche: “Going into the Big East and the Tournament, we need B to get back to himself. I think a game like this builds his confidence up leading into next week. He did an unbelievable job. He played his tail off. And that’s what we were waiting for.”
Syracuse will next play Thursday at noon in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. Their opponent is not yet known, but they will be playing at noon. Photo credit: Syracuse.com
Quotes from ESPN.com and Syracuse.com