Saturday, February 11, 2012

This was about Syracuse winning, not UConn losing

Look at the final score.

Syracuse 85, UConn 67.

Based on that score and what has gone on with the Huskies the last three weeks, the assumption is simple: UConn stunk. Again. That wouldn't be entirely accurate, however.

The Huskies didn't play bad. They actually played as well as they have in 2012. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright were creators -- and shot makers -- in the back court, Jeremy Lamb showed signs of the aggressiveness we have all been pining for all season long and Andre Drummond looked like the lottery pick he is supposed to be for a stretch in the first half before he turned his ankle.

UConn shot 8-19 from three and 44.2% from the floor. They had more assists than turnovers. Those numbers seemed impossible for the Huskies as recently as Monday. And while the final difference was 18 points, UConn was within two points in the final five minutes. This was not a blow out, by any stretch of the imagination.

In fact, UConn answered a number of runs by the Orange when they looked primed to turn this into a laugher. Syracuse used a 20-5 run to take a 25-15 lead midway through the first half, a spurt that looked like it was going to demoralize the Huskies. But UConn fought back and hung with the Orange until the end despite playing against a Syracuse team that looked as good as they have all season long.

That right there is the point. The credit for this win has to fall entirely on the shoulders of the Orange, who looked absolutely fantastic on Saturday.

Scoop Jardine played a flawless basketball game, finishing with 21 points, six assists and no turnovers. Well, I take that back. He wasn't flawless. He did miss one of the nine shots he took from the field. Dion Waiters was just as good, going for 21 points, four assists and a pair of steals. CJ Fair added 14 points and 12 boards off the bench and Kris Joseph chipped in with 15.

Oh, and for what its worth, in a game where Fab Melo was struggling to stay on the court due to foul trouble, Syracuse game up just eight offensive rebounds to a team known for its offensive rebounding. Just sayin'.

Syracuse had an answer for every UConn run. Each time UConn was able to chip away at the lead and get the score within a basket, the Orange would get a couple of stops and hit a couple of jumpers. Whether it was burying a three or forcing a turnover and going the other way for a dunk, Syracuse never let UConn reach the peak. The Huskies never retook the lead. They never even got the score tied.

Jardine was the headliner. He made a number of big shots down the stretch once UConn got the score to 64-62. This coming after Joseph made clutch basket after clutch basket in the win over Georgetown. That came after every pundit in the country was calling Waiters the Cuse star.

And this team doesn't have a go-to guy? Please.

When Syracuse plays their game, they are as good as anyone in the country.

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