In a game that featured two top scorers -- sophomore guard Dion Waiters (16 points) and senior forward Kris Joseph (12) -- both nailing two big 3-point shots in the closing minutes to help the No. 1-ranked Syracuse Orange defeat the Pittsburgh Panthers, 71-63, there was an unsung hero among the top performances.
Senior point guard Scoop Jardine who tallied 12 points and dished out a game-best 10 assists to collect his second double-double of the season.
Recap: No. 1 Syracuse Downs Pittsburgh, 71-63, To Earn School-Record 20th Consecutive Victory
"He was tremendous," said head coach Jim Boeheim, who earned his 867th-career victory to move into a tie with former Kentucky Wildcats head coach Adolph Rupp for fourth all-time on the Division I list.
"He is a guy who will make plays and is not afraid to make plays. When he shoots the ball well he is one of the best point guards in the league, if not the best point guard in the league."
Jardine's brilliance was highlighted during the Orange's game-opening, 13-0 run that featured the senior dishing out three assists -- an transition pass that led to a dunk by Joseph and two consecutive lobs to sophomore center Fab Melo -- and a 3-pointer, which gave SU a 11-0 advantage just 3:17 into the contest.
Feature: Scoop Jardine Is A Championship Caliber Point Guard
In the second half's first five minutes, Jardine collected a steal and seven straight points, including a jumper that helped give SU its largest lead of the game, 48-34, with 15:09 to go.
By game's end, Jardine had improved his three-game assists to turnover ratio to an impressive 24-to-4 ratio. At halftime of Monday's game, Jardine's ratio was at a perfect 15-0 during the previous three halfs. Currently, Jardine's ratio is 4.8-2.1.
"He's a leader out there," said sophomore guard Brandon Triche, who tallied 10 points and made 6 of 7 shots from the free-throw line. "He's helping a lot of the guys out and he's finding everybody. He's taking care of the ball as well, so this is something that we see in practice and you guys finally get to see it."
The Syracuse basketball schedule features the Orange putting their unblemished record on the line Saturday (6 p.m. on ESPN) at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who just recently had a 29-game home winning streak snapped by the Connecticut Huskies and Monday lost at the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 65-58.
The Orange have lost five of their last seven at the Joyce Center in South Bend, IN, but have earned victories in their last two visits there.
However, if everything stays the same and Jardine's seemingly flawless leadership skills continue to shine, there should be no let down on the road -- a place where experts say the Orange need to come up big.
"We know we're getting everybody best shot," said Jardine. "So, for the most part I just try to keep our focus level. Especially, going on the road where its going to be loud. We always need to be together and be a unit."
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