Syracuse (25-1, 12-1 Big East) used a late second-half spurt to pad its lead and defeat a tough Connecticut (15-9, 5-7 Big East) squad Saturday in the Carrier Dome in front of 33,430 fans.
After the Huskies cut the Orange lead to 63-61 with just more than six minutes left, Syracuse went on a 22-6 run to end the game at 85-67. Senior guard Scoop Jardine led the way for SU with 21 points throughout the game, including two 3-ponters on consecutive possessions that brought the crowd to its feet and made the Orange lead insurmountable.
In an impressive offensive showcase, SU shot 59 percent from the floor and 10-of-16 from long-range. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim called the offensive showing “as good an offensive game we can have.”
Jardine wasn’t the only player who found his groove shooting the ball. Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair and Kris Joseph all scored in double-figures as well. After Fair's recent struggles, it was his strong rebounding and timely shooting that impressed Boeheim.
“When he [Fair] has a bad game, he takes it to heart,” Boeheim said. “He really went to work the last few days. It paid off big time tonight.”
Fair stepped up on the glass for the Orange after a disappointing performance against Georgetown. He finished with 12 of Syracuse’s 31 rebounds.
“In practice, our whole mindset was rebound the ball,” Waiters said.
Another surprise in the rivalry game was the outside shooting of sophomore center Fab Melo. Although he is mainly known for his defense and rebounding, Melo made three unexpected perimeter jump shots against the Huskies.
Melo joked about taking a step back and even shooting 3s after the game.
“I’ll leave that for later this season. I’ve got to prepare you for that,” he said.
In the beginning of the second half, the Huskies were going to freshman big man Andre Drummond early and often, and he delivered. Despite showing a lack of urgency throughout the year, Drummond played with energy and ferocity.
Drummond was hurt late in the second half and had to leave the game for an extended period of time. Drummond returned to the game, but once the Huskies lost their strong freshman, the course of the game changed.
“I hope that it wasn’t the difference, but it certainly would’ve been nice to have him that stretch he was out,” Blaney said.
Despite a strong offensive performance, Syracuse had trouble separating itself from UConn because the Huskies were shooting well, too. UConn guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier combined to shoot 6-for-8 from 3-point range.
“We knew they couldn’t stop us, but we had to get some stops,” Jardine said.
Syracuse finally got the stops they needed, which caused the second-half spurt that proved to be too much for UConn.
Despite struggling of late, Waiters was a key part of the balanced Orange attack. He scored in transition, in the paint, from deep and got to the free-throw line. Waiters scored 18 points while shooting an impressive 7-of-10 from the floor.
Next, Syracuse heads to Kentucky to play Louisville. No one on the current Orange roster has ever beaten the Cardinals.