For the last time in their esteemed Syracuse careers, Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine donned their home white uniforms in front of a loud Carrier Dome crowd. The result was a pretty one for the SU faithful. Behind a strong defensive effort that limited Louisville to 34 percent shooting from the floor, the Orange beat the Cardinals, 58-49.
Brandon Triche led the charge for SU with 18 points and four assists. The junior guard was 3-of-6 from long-range and played with aggression and assertiveness offensively. Triche was instrumental in Syracuse pulling away to improve its record to 30-1 on the season - the first time SU head coach Jim Boeheim has reached 30 wins in the regular season.
Syracuse started the game slowly, facing a 15-9 deficit midway through the first half. Louisville effectively used Jared Swopshire and Gorgui Dieng in the high post, finding holes in the SU zone and shooting from the elbow.
Despite not getting much playing time of late, James Southerland came off the bench and provided the Syracuse offense with the energy and sharp-shooting it needed to gain momentum.
“James had a real good first half for us when we really needed some points,” Boeheim said. "He came in and scored seven points. I thought he was very, very key in that first half.”
Sophomore guard Dion Waiters, who had struggled in the previous four games, also helped spur the offense with 13 points off the bench. He made baskets at multiple levels, hitting threes and scoring in transition. Waiters has become an automatic two points in transition, where he has become known for his dunks and the ensuing salute he gives the crowd.
It was the defense though that allowed the Orange to pull away after an unimpressive start. The Syracuse zone quickly closed down on Louisville shooters (especially Kyle Kuric) and made it difficult for Cardinal players to penetrate. Sophomore center Fab Melo continues to be an intimidating defense presence for the Orange, as he swatted away four shots and altered many more.
“Defense wins games,” Boeheim explained after the game.
In Jardine’s last career game at the Dome, Boeheim said the Philadelphia native may have pressed and put too much pressure on himself.
He finished the game scoreless with three assists. Because of the strong play of backcourt mates Triche and Waiters, Jardine was limited to just 18 minutes.
Even with a subpar performance, Jardine remained optimistic and looked back on his career pleased with how the product.
“I cherished every moment of it," Jardine said. "I fell on my face, I picked myself up, I brushed myself off and I had a great career here."
Joseph, the senior from Montreal, scored 11 points in his last home game. He was upbeat with how the season has gone but noted that Syracuse still has work to do.
After previously saying he wanted to get Southerland, Baye Keita, Michael Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas more time on the court to prepare them for possible minutes in March, Boeheim used all 10 rotation players early in the game.
However, Southerland finished with 20 minutes while freshman big man Christmas only played the first forty-six seconds of the game. In the second half, Boeheim stuck to a tighter rotation, as his squad ran away with the game.
The use of the Syracuse bench is something to keep an eye on, as the team could potentially play three games in as many days during the Big East tournament.
The Orange will now have four days off before they tip off on Thursday at noon at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament. SU has a double-bye and will be looking to make the Big East championship game for the first time since the 2008-09 season.