To this point in the season Dion Waiters was playing more minutes per game than senior starter Scoop Jardine, as the Syracuse sophomore was playing good basketball. But Jardine displayed his value in the second half of Friday's game against Florida, scoring eight of Syracuse' nine points during a critical stretch that put the Orange in control of a game they went on to win 72-68. Jardine finished with 16 points and seven assists while Brandon Triche (20 points) and Kris Joseph (14) also finished in double figures. Guards Kenny Boynton (22 points) and Erving Walker (17) led the Way for Florida, who lost their second game of the season against a Top 5 opponent due in large part to Jardine.
"He did what he was supposed to do," said Triche of his backcourt partner's performance. "As an experienced guard he came down the stretch and knocked down shots. The biggest thing was his three steals in a row and we were able to get them in foul trouble or convert on most of them."
The question for Florida wasn't so much how well they'd shoot given the ability of their perimeter players but rather the quality of the shots they took. The Gators made nine of twenty-six shots from beyond the arc but the 20 turnovers against the Syracuse zone proved to be the bigger issue. One thing that the Orange do well defensively is essentially decide who will take the shots. Will Yeguete had multiple opportunities in the high post, which is exactly where teams want to get the ball against a zone defense, but his inability to knock down mid-range jumpers is exactly why the Orange allowed him to shoot.
It also didn't help matters that Patric Young had to deal with foul trouble, and this changed the way in which the Gators went about attacking the Syracuse zone as they no longer had a viable low post threat. Syracuse outscored Florida 17-7 at the foul line and out-rebounded them by seven (40-33), with C.J. Fair grabbing 11 rebounds to go along with his nine points. Florida's offensive efficiency was more than 25 points below their season average, showing what can happen when taking on a defense with the length of Syracuse's. But the play and leadership of Jardine, who sat in favor of Waiters in New York last week, will be a key throughout the season. If Scoop's doing what Jim Boeheim needs him to do, this is a Final Four-caliber team.
"When you are trying to win championships, like we are doing here, we are going to need guys that make sacrifices and leave egos at the door," said Jardine. "If I can do it, I've been here five years, anyone can do it and that is one of the things I have done as a leader. Coach said it and congratulated me on it but it's going to be for everybody and that's how it is."
Link: Boeheim apologizes for his words in immediate response to the Bernie Fine charges.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Vanderbilt's foul shooting costs them the game at Louisville.
It is extremely rare for a team that boasts a free throw rate of 54.5% while their opponent is down at 18.3% to lose a game, regardless of the quality of said opponent. But when you don't take advantage of that edge, as Vanderbilt did on Friday night, the door is left open. Sure enough, Vanderbilt going 14-for-24 from the foul line ultimately cost them as Louisville came back to win 62-60 in overtime. The win capped a 4-0 night for the Big East in the HTC Big East/SEC Invitational, but that news is secondary to the way in which the Commodores lost. Kevin Stallings team, which led by nine with just under nine minutes remaining, couldn't shut the door due to their offensive execution and foul shooting.
John Jenkins led the way with 27 points while Lance Goulbourne and Jeffery Taylor scored 11 apiece, but outside of those three there wasn't much production. And come crunch time Vanderbilt almost seemed as if they tensed up, failing to display the aggressive nature needed to close out tough games. It all makes you wonder just how much had changed in Nashville. The familiar line outside of the program is that things will change once Festus Ezeli returns, but is he enough to change this team's mental fortitude?
2. Rider loses their MAAC opener by 16, dropping to 1-7 on the year.
While Tommy Dempsey's team got off to a horrific start offensively against Manhattan, they trailed just 26-25 at the half thanks to 9 Jasper turnovers. But the most troubling number in the first half for the Broncs was 15, as in the number of three-pointers they attempted (making one), and that didn't improve much in the second half. Each team would make five three-pointers in the second half with Manhattan needing nine attempts to do so while Rider hoisted fourteen, and the Jaspers made 16 of 18 from the charity stripe as they pulled away for the 71-55 win.
The loss dropped the talented Broncs to 1-7 on the season, and a team thought to be right there with Loyola above the fray yet below favorites Iona and Fairfield in the MAAC looks more like a team destined to lose 20 games. Novar Gadson led three Broncs in double figures with 16 points, but the inconsistent nature of this group has been a theme all season long. Can they snap out of it before it's too late? Tough question to answer right now.
3. Washington's failure to foul sends them to an overtime loss at Nevada.
In spite of early struggles Lorenzo Romar's team had every opportunity to sew up a win at Nevada late Friday night, but the inability to act on a simple instruction opened the door for the Wolf Pack. Following a 1-for-2 trip to the foul line that gave the Huskies a 66-63 lead in the final seconds Romar instructed his team to give the foul before Deonte Burton, who was red hot in the second half and overtime, got off a shot. What happened was a half-hearted attempt at the foul by Tony Wroten Jr. far too close to shooting range, and with the foul going uncalled Burton knocked down the three to send the game into overtime.
Burton continued his work in the extra session, leading Nevada to the 76-73 win. Washington got two shots at the tie, but Darnell Gant (shot blocked) and Abdul Gaddy were the shooters instead of either C.J. Wilcox or Terrence Ross. Why was Nevada able to hang around despite their own offensive difficulties? Twenty-one Washington turnovers, with Wroten and Gaddy combining for nine of them. Given the strength (or lack thereof) of the Pac-12 this season the Huskies will likely be involved in a number of thrillers, and just how successful they are will depend on late-game execution. And judging by Friday night there's a lot of work to be done.
1. The big injury news of the day regarded Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger, who won't play tomorrow against UTPA due to back spasms that flared up against Duke on Tuesday night. How long the All-American is out remains to be seen, but this means that Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel will need to step up if Sullinger is out for an extended period.
2. Next in line was Pittsburgh point guard Tray Woodall, who will miss the next month or so with groin and abdominal injuries suffered in the Panthers' win over Duquesne on Wednesday. This could mean more time at the point for Ashton Gibbs, and John Johnson and Cam Wright (who was suspended for Wednesday's game) need to step up.
3. Seton Hall put forth an impressive showing in their 81-59 win over Auburn, and the difference in this team is quite apparent. The Pirates are playing loose but smart and look as if they enjoy being on the floor and playing as a team, a testament to what Kevin Willard and his staff have done.
4. There are few teams as inconsistent as Loyola Marymount, who lost 69-61 to a Columbia that was without their best player in shooting guard Norwua Agho. While Max Good's team has beaten UCLA and Saint Louis they've also lost to Middle Tennessee and now a team expected to finish in the bottom half of the Ivy League.
5. Cameron Clark scored 18 points to lead three starters in double figures in Oklahoma's 82-53 win over Sacramento State. That balance will be something that Lon Kruger relies on with Calvin Newell deciding the transfer despite averaging 13.0 ppg on the season.
6. While they are one of the top scoring teams in the country, Iona's NCAA Tournament hopes will depend upon their ability to defend. Tim Cluess' Gaels put forth their best defensive showing of the season in a 69-57 win at Canisius, forcing 21 turnovers (turnover percentage of 35%) on the night.
7. Dion Dixon came up big for Cincinnati in the second half, scoring 16 of his 19 points to help lead the Bearcats to a 57-51 win at Georgia. With that home loss to Presbyterian hanging over the team, Mick Cronin's squad could not afford to drop this one.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Juan'Ya Green (Niagara)
The freshman guard nearly delivered a win but came up short in the Purple Eagles' 79-75 loss to Fairfield. Green finished with 35 points, six rebounds and three assists.
2. F Herb Pope (Seton Hall)
23 points, 12 rebounds and two assists in the Pirates' 81-59 win over Auburn.
3. G Marcus Denmon (Missouri)
31 points (7-10 3PT), six rebounds and two assists in the Tigers' 90-56 win over Northwestern State.