MBB : Syracuse takes all 3 matchups with UConn; Jardine sees limited time in 2nd half
NEW YORK — For the first time since 1983-84, Syracuse defeated Connecticut three times in one season.
‘It’s tough to beat a team, especially like Connecticut, three times in a row,’ forward James Southerland said. ‘But we came out with it and we did what we needed to do.’
Each game was a little different. In the first meeting, Feb. 11 in Syracuse, a big second-half run boosted the Orange to an 18-point win. In the second, Feb. 25 in Storrs, Conn., Syracuse nearly blew a double-digit lead but held on to win by two.
On Thursday, both teams battled in a defensive struggle in which it seemed they knew all of each other’s tendencies. Syracuse pulled out the 58-55 win to advance to the Big East tournament semifinals.
Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun was on the court for the first time of the three meetings in Thursday’s Big East tournament quarterfinals. He missed the first two meetings with back issues and associate head coach George Blaney was in charge.
The result didn’t change with Calhoun back. He praised the team Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has put together after the game.
‘What Jim has done this year, you can make an argument between them and Kentucky as the best teams in the country,’ Calhoun said. ‘They certainly have a great many answers, terrific athletes.’
This was the third time in the last four Big East tournaments that Syracuse and UConn met. In 2009, the Orange defeated the Huskies in six overtimes in the quarterfinals. Last season, UConn returned the favor, as Kemba Walker led his team past the Orange in the semifinals.
Calhoun said he loves Boeheim ‘like a brother’ and said Boeheim has done an incredible job with the No. 2 Orange this year.
Syracuse has a No. 1 seed all but locked up for the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut appears to have done enough to qualify for the 68-team field as well, although a win Thursday would have erased any worries.
After beating the Huskies for the third time, Boeheim said he sees UConn doing more than just making the tournament.
‘I think Connecticut is a really good team’ he said. ‘I would be shocked if they don’t win two games in the NCAA Tournament, at the minimum.’
Jardine plays just 3 second-half minutes
Boeheim said he went with who was playing the best. It wasn’t that Scoop Jardine was playing that bad, per se.
Syracuse’s other guards were just playing at a very high level.
‘He wasn’t having a great day,’ Boeheim said. ‘Dion was having a great day and Brandon was having a great day. So it was just a matter of going with the two guys that were playing better.’
Jardine played just three minutes in the second half of Syracuse’s win over Connecticut. In 18 minutes total, the senior guard scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting and grabbed two rebounds. Triche and Waiters each played 17 minutes in the second half.
Syracuse has tended to go with the hot hands all year long at every position, showcasing its depth down the stretch. Jardine and forward C.J. Fair were the odd ones out against UConn, as Southerland also played most of the second half at the power forward position.
It was also Jardine’s second straight game in which he has struggled. The senior went scoreless in his final home game against Louisville last Saturday.
‘Some games it’s been those two, some games it’s been Scoop and one of them,’ Boeheim said. ’But today Scoop wasn’t making shots, and I thought that the two best offensive guards we had were those two guys.’
Fair struggles in start
C.J. Fair said he was a little under the weather leading up to SU’s matchup with UConn Thursday. Because of that ailment, the headband he usually wears in games was giving him a headache and making him dizzy so he decided to ditch it for the contest.
But after going 0-of-4 with two points and no rebounds, the sophomore said he wants to wear it tomorrow against Cincinnati, health permitting.
‘I decided to go without it,’ he said. ‘Tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, I can wear it tomorrow.’
Fair averages 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Orange coming off the bench. He started three games earlier this year when Fab Melo was suspended due to an academic issue but was surprised when Boeheim told him earlier in the week he would start against Connecticut in place of freshman Rakeem Christmas.
But the start did not go as planned as Fair played the fewest minutes (15) in a game he has all year and registered his second lowest scoring total.
‘Today it didn’t feel too good,’ he said. ‘I didn’t play my best today.’
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