With about 7 minutes left in the first half of last night’s game, SU led Providence by a slim 15-12 margin. PC had the ball after a turnover by Michael Carter-Williams. At this point, Jim Boeheim inserted Scoop Jardine back into the game. After PC hit a pair of free throws, Scoop assisted on SU’s next basket. After PC hit two more free throws to make it a 17-16 game, Scoop scored SU’s next two hoops which were the first points in what turned out to be a 21-5 run over the last 5:30 of the half. The run was capped by Scoop’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to close the half (his second consecutive such shot, though this one was more conventional than the 35-foot runner against Villanova). The tide turned when Jardine came back in the game. To be sure, he did not “take over” in the traditional sense of the term, namely by hitting shot after shot like, say, Kobe Bryant will do. But the offense clearly flowed much better when he was in the game — they only scored five points while he sat for over 8 minutes in the half — and the defense got tighter. Partly due to the success of the full-court pressure, but also Scoop’s presence at the top of the zone kept Providence from easily getting the ball into the paint.
Now, in the past few games in which SU had a big halftime lead, they came out flat to start the second half. Suffice to say they bucked that trend tonight, and Scoop again was the gas that made the car go. Here are SU’s first six field goals of the 2nd half:
Layup by Christmas, assist by Jardine (19:35)
Three-pointer by Joseph, assist by Jardine (19:04)
Dunk by Melo, assist by Jardine (17:13)
Dunk by Melo, assist by Jardine (16:08)
Layup by Joseph, assist by Jardine (15:31)
Dunk by Christmas, assist by Jardine (15:01)
And, courtesy of my new video capture ‘toy’, here they are for your enjoyment:
That’s crazy. Six buckets in a row assisted by El Cucharón Grande. That’s Stockton-esque. SU’s only other points in this stretch were two Rakeem Christmas free throws, which he hit after — guess who! — Scoop fed him the ball as he was cutting through the lane. So Scoop essentially assisted on every Syracuse point for the first five minutes of the half. (He nearly had another, but Kris Joseph mis-timed his jump on an alley-oop attempt that Scoop lobbed up nicely.) Anyway, after the Christmas dunk at 15:01, Boeheim made a “line change” at the next whistle by sending in five subs, and Scoop’s night was done. The score was 53-25 and it was all over but the Mookie-ing.
All told, over the twelve minutes that Scoop was on the floor (counting from when he came back in the game at the 7-minute mark of the first half), SU outscored Providence 38 to 13. In fact, SU outscored Providence by 31 points total during the time Scoop was on the court (including the first 4:30 of the game — when he went to the bench, SU was up 10-4). Scoop ended the night with 9 assists and ten points… in 17 minutes.
Overall the team had 23 assists on 30 baskets. After going through a ridiculous 2-16 shooting dry spell midway through the first half, SU hit 7 straight shots over a 4-minute span late in that half, and they were 7-9 from the floor in a 6-minute span to begin the 2nd half. It was beautiful to watch the offense clicking like this. Just imagine if they hadn’t had that dry spell, where the shots just didn’t fall
Of course, to get assists you need to have teammates scoring the ball (though it’s much easier when you are feeding them for dunks and layups). Nearly every Orangeman on the floor had a solid game. Christmas was particularly active, and it was great to see him score the ball a few times. Dion Waiters had his mini-explosion to lead the run that closed the first half. Fab and Keita combined for 8 points, 9 boards, and 5 blocks, holding PC to just 18 points in the paint. CJ Fair was back playing smart — after a couple games where he often tried to force his offense, he returned to the CJ we know and love by taking what the defense gave him, in this case several open mid-range jumpers. MCW continues to improve and showed flashes of what he will hopefully be able to do consistently next year. The only players who really didn’t play that well were Southerland and Triche. Brandon didn’t really play poorly at all. It just was his turn to take a back seat in the backcourt while Scoop and Waiters did the damage. He did play solid defense and grabbed 3 boards. Southerland shot 1-9, but I’m glad he keeps shooting it because when he gets hot he is lethal. He also had 3 boards and continues to put in effort on the glass, even if he’s still swatting at rebounds more often than he is grabbing them.
This was basketball worthy of the #1 team in the land. Granted, it was at home against a not-good Providence team that was missing their best player, but still. It’s the kind of dominating display that Syracuse doesn’t really seem to put together very often. We’re used to seeing the guys in Orange play down to their competition, ease up and let the other team back into the game, and not really put their boots on the necks of their opponents. But not tonight. Tonight they came to play and kept the heat on for a full 40 minutes… well, 32 or so, after which point it was Mookie Time! In a topsy-turvy Big East season, not to mention all across college basketball (five ranked teams lost on Saturday), it was great to see them showing up full throttle.