That was a much-needed victory for the Syracuse basketball program, which ended a four-game losing streak Wednesday night with a 66-58 victory at the Connecticut Huskies in a Big East Conference contest at the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
Despite starting the game 0-for-6 from the field and down 6-0, the Orange (19-4, 6-4) earned a quality road win against a Top-10 conference opponent -- did I mention it was against Jim Calhoun? It's always nice to beat Mr. Calhoun and the Huskies (No. 6 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll).
Mucho kudos goes out to freshman center Baye Moussa Keita, who had a stat-stuffing performance of four points, 11 rebounds, six steals and two blocks. Keita and senior forward Rick Jackson, who collected 13 rebounds and 13 points to earn his 20th double-double of the year, was the keys to tonight's victory. Those two owned the inside, which allowed junior forward Kris Joseph, senior guard Scoop Jardine and sophomore guard Brandon Triche to own the parameter and shut down the nation's second-best scorer Kemba Walker, who netted just eight points -- coming into the game, Walker averaged 24.2 points-per game.
But the story of the game is Triche, who continues to spark the Orange to victory. Triche scored seven points during a 10-4 second-half run that gave SU a lead, 36-29 with 16:12 to play, it would never lose. Triche is just a sophomore and seems to come up big when needed. This kid is going to be really good next year and the year after. It's exciting that he's at SU for another two seasons.
Jardine, who finished with seven points and six rebounds, did what he needs to do for the Orange to win. Jardine didn't force anything and at one point in the second half -- when he chucked up a patented, off-balance, 3-pointer -- I hadn't noticed his bad decision making. Yes, Jardine finished 2-for-11 from the field but a lot of his shots were driving shots that drew UConn defenders away from the rim and allowed Keita, Jackson and freshmen forward C.J. Fair, who netted six first-half points, to put back easy 2-point baskets. That's the kind of play SU needs from Jardine. Hopefully he can carry the performance into the next game.
The Syracuse basketball schedule features the Orange playing at the South Florida Bulls on Saturday (2 p.m.) then hosting the Georgetown Hoyas next Wednesday (7 p.m.). The Orange will travel to Louisville next Saturday, Feb. 12, (noon).