Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cuse bounces back, no points shaved

(photo courtesy of

A well-drawn up set out of a late timeout gave Syracuse its first lead in weeks right before heading into the locker room. They never gave it back, building on their 26-25 halftime edge to beat Connecticut 66-58 and avoid what would have been their first five-game losing streak under Jim Boeheim.

Just two days after rumors surfaced about a potential point-shaving scandal involving Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and James Southerland (Syracuse was 7-13 against the spread in their first 20 games), the Orange rebounded behind the play of Brandon Triche (16 points), Rick Jackson (13 points, 13 rebounds) and Baye Moussa Keita (11 rebounds, 6 steals).

Triche came up particularly big in key moments, hitting a three-pointer with 4:28 left to extend Syracuse's lead to four after the Huskies trimmed the deficit to one. His 10 second-half points along with 9 from Kris Joseph, who struggled with his shot early, propelled Syracuse to a much-needed victory. Triche's continued improvement in his sophomore season has been a definite bright spot for the Orange heading into the season's final quarter.

Jardine's struggles continued, as he scored just 7 points on 2-for-11 shooting, while Waiters had 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals and Southerland played only one minute. You have to wonder whether the scandal was on Jardine's mind, as he vehemently defended himself and his teammates via Twitter, giving legs to the rumor that has since inspired an apology from its anonymous initiator (link below).

The real story, however, was the struggle of UConn's National Player of the Year candidate Kemba Walker.

Walker was held to single digits for the first time all season, making just 3 of his 14 shots and struggling to find open looks against the 2-3 zone of the Orange. When you shut down the best player on what is essentially a one-man team, you usually win. Walker's teammates didn't give him much help and the Huskies couldn't move the ball crisply enough to beat the zone, resulting in 16 turnovers.

Syracuse is now 6-4 in the Big East with eight conference games remaining, four of those coming against ranked teams (three on the road). The taste of victory after over two weeks without one should reestablish this team's confidence and lead them to another 10-win season in the Big East. They won't hit their 15-3 mark from last season, but they can come close.

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