What a night for senior point guard Scoop Jardine, who netted a team-best 20 points Monday night to help the Syracuse Orange (No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) to a scrappy 69-64 victory at the No. 14 Villanova Wildcats in a Big East Conference game in Philadelphia. Jardine, a Philly native, added six assists, four rebounds and for about two minutes in the second half, he put SU on his back. That small, but big, effort helped the Orange (23-6, 10-6 Big East) earn a victory at a very tough road venue, The Pavilion.
SU, winners of its last three games, now are in contention for a two-round bye in the Big East Tournament, March 8-12. Currently, the Orange are alone in sixth place in the Big East standings (the top four teams earn two-round byes, the next four earn just a one-round bye). Syracuse plays at the third-place Georgetown Hoyas (21-6, 10-5) on Saturday (noon on ESPN). The following Saturday SU will play host to the last-place DePaul Blue Demons (7-19, 1-13). Two more wins and a 12-6 conference record probably allows SU to sneak into fourth place.
Anyway, as sloppy as the victory seemed Monday night, it was another Big East "W". It also was a win at The Pavilion, which is easily in the Top 3 toughest places to play in the Big East. If your team can snagged a victory there, in anyway possible, it was a good day.
However, SU fans were sitting at the edge of their seats pretty much the whole second half. Leading 29-27 at halftime, after 'Nova missed almost every shot (8 of 33, 24.2 percent) in the first half, Syracuse basketball enthusiasts knew that Wildcats wouldn't stay on their horrid pace. Well, they pretty much did (21-of-65, 32.3). The Wildcats could hit anything from 3-point range (5-of-26, 19.2) unless it was senior guard Corey Stokes, who made all of 'Nova's 3-balls. The rest of the team went 0-of-16. Ouch, but credit needs to go to SU's 2-3 zone defense which contested shots all night long.
Solid effort by senior forward Rick Jackson (18 points, five rebounds and four blocks) and sophomore guard Brandon Triche (11 points and seven rebounds). Triche had a hard time finding shots, but made a tough layup with less than a minute to go to help SU take a 65-60 lead. Freshman guard Dion Watiers, who tallied seven points but was again inconsistent, nailed two clutch free throws in the finals seconds to cement the victory.
Now, time to get amped for the Hoyas.