Syracuse (27-1, 14-1 Big East) continued its tear through the Big East with a hard-fought 74-64 victory over Rutgers (12-15, 4-10) on Sunday at the RAC. Senior point guard Scoop Jardine led the way for the Orange with 17 points and seven assists. The game was close throughout until Jardine nailed a 3-pointer with 72 seconds left to increase the lead to seven. Sophomore forward C.J. Fair also had a strong effort, scoring 21 points while playing 38 minutes. The Orange now head back to Syracuse and will host South Florida on Wednesday.
1. Syracuse will go as far as Scoop takes them.
Jardine is prone to turnovers, taking bad shots and occasional mental lapses. But he is the fearless, emotional leader of this squad. Head coach Jim Boeheim trusts his senior guard and has repeatedly said that Jardine is the only point guard SU has on its roster that can steadily run the offense. Against Rutgers, Jardine did more than just run the offense. He pushed the ball in transition, made tough shots and found the open man. For Syracuse to make a run in the NCAA tournament, the Philadelphia native is going to have to continue to lead SU with his smart play and effective facilitating. Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said Jardine “gives Syracuse another college basketball coach on the floor.” Good thing for SU, Scoop has more youthful legs than most college basketball coaches.
2. C.J. Fair is kind of talented.
Against Rutgers, Fair scored a career-high 21 points, while shooting 6-of-8 from the floor. He also had eight rebounds and played all but two minutes of the game. Fair slammed down some alley-oops and hit on some catch-and-shoot jump shots, which is exactly what the Orange need from him. In the future, as he progresses, Fair will have to create more for himself off the dribble. For now, he fills his role as a energetic finisher and rebounder off the bench. But in the future, look out because Fair is as efficient and athletic as they come.
3. Finally, there's some offensive aggression.
Lately, Syracuse has struggled offensively. They’ve settled for too many 3-pointers and have taken too many ill-advised shots. That changed today. They were finally the aggressor. Without James Southerland taking 26-foot bombs — he only played three minutes — Syracuse was finally focused on getting into the paint and to the free-throw line. The Orange took 31 free throws and only 12 3-pointers. This is something to keep an eye on. Will Syracuse continue to attack the hoop or will they settle for 3s? To make a deep run in the tournament, opponents will slow the Orange down and force them to take long-range shots. For Syracuse to make a run, players like Fair, Fab Melo and Dion Waiters have to keep getting to the line for easy points.
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