Jardine’s late-game play downs Knights
Scoop Jardine could not help but smile yesterday as he turned from the Louis Brown Athletic Center 3-point line.
The Syracuse senior point guard’s 3-pointer in front of a capacity crowd put the Orange ahead by 8 points as the clock showed only a minute remained. His efforts on the previous two possessions led to 4 points, as well, lifting the No. 2 Orange to a 74-64 win against the Rutgers men’s basketball team.
“Scoop made some plays down the stretch,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “That’s what we would hope for from a senior guard. He has been doing that all year.”
Jardine’s driving floater two possessions earlier did not fall. But forward Kris Joseph put back the miss, which junior wing Dane Miller called the play of the game.
Jardine returned on the next trip with a contested jumper from the wing. But his biggest play put the game out of reach.
Eli Carter had Jardine in his sights. But not even the freshman guard could prevent Jardine from having his way and locking up Syracuse’s Big East-best 27th win of the season.
Jardine turned and let loose a toothy grin. His four misses from the foul line had not cost Syracuse. Neither had his three turnovers, which tied for the most on the team.
For nearly 40 minutes, the Orange could not exhale. But Jardine’s late-game performance provided the outlet.
“That took the life out of the gym, forget us,” sophomore guard Mike Poole said of Jardine’s shot. “The whole gym, all the Rutgers fans seemed like they died when that shot happened. It kind of clinched the game for them.”
Carter tried his hand in the heroics as the Scarlet Knights (12-15, 4-10) trailed by 4 with less than two minutes left. But his contested 3-pointer in transition caromed off the rim, and Syracuse (27-1, 14-1) turned to a game-clincher of its own.
Boeheim called the RAC a shooter’s gym, and Jardine’s 5 late points provided the testament. Jardine calmly controlled the last 90 seconds as only a fifth-year veteran can. But the Philadelphia native was not alone.
Orange sophomore C.J. Fair tied a game high with 21 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. Joseph and sophomore center Fab Melo scored in double figures to go along with Jardine’s 17 points.
“You just don’t know where it’s coming from,” said head coach Mike Rice. “C.J. Fair is one of the best offensive rebounding wings there is in college basketball. You just don’t know where you’re getting hit at.”
The Knights, and especially sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta, took their fair share of punches. The Orange threatened to pull away throughout the second half, but a double-digit lead never came.
Biruta proved the catalyst, scoring a season-high 21 points and recording seven rebounds. But only Poole joined Biruta with at least 10 points.
The Knights’ three freshman guards combined to shoot 3-for-16 from 3-point territory and scored only 19 total points. No one else converted a 3-point attempt.
So Rice looked to his defense.
“I always think we need a stop,” he said. “That’s who I am. We just didn’t get stops down the line that we needed. You’re not going to match basket-for-basket with Syracuse. We didn’t do enough.”
Syracuse outshot the Knights, 31-11, at the free-throw line, converting 12 more than Rutgers. Fair went 8-for-8, while the Knights made nine as a team.
Still, Rutgers had its opportunities in its sixth home matchup against a top-10 team in three seasons. It traded runs, swayed momentum and even took the lead. But the Orange were not Connecticut or Florida, teams the Knights outlasted this season at the RAC.
Jardine made sure of it.
“They have an unfair advantage for a college basketball coach in Scoop Jardine running the point,” Rice said. “He had just such a composure and understanding of what he wanted to do. It hurt us down the line because he was strong.”
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