Monday, February 7, 2011

Orangemen Get Going in Tampa, Knock Off USF 72-49

During a season of unfinished business, Syracuse took care of some business, during a trip to "South" Florida on Saturday afternoon. Behind a season high 21 points from sensational senior Rick Jackson and 14 points from Kris Joseph, the Syracuse Orangemen knocked off South Florida 72-49 in front of 10,051 fans, many of them wearing orange and blue.

Coming off a huge 66-58 victory against the #6/#7 Connecticut Huskies on the heels of a 4 game losing streak, there was some concern that Syracuse could suffer a let down in the warm and sunny central Gulf Coast of Florida.

Thanks to Rick Jackson's monster game (21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 1 foul in 38 minutes on the floor) the game was hardly in doubt. It was Rick Jackson's 16th double-double of the season.

Syracuse's trusty 2-3 zone defense, which awoke from a 2 week long coma in Hartford, CT on Wednesday, continued to roll in Tampa as Syracuse held the USF Bulls to 49 total points and 2 of 13 shooting from beyond the 3-point line (13.3%).

Kris Joseph pitched in 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the floor (1-3 from three point range) and grabbed another 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Syracuse continued to struggle with their own 3-point shooting, going 4-15 from 3-point range (26.7%). Scoop Jardine's offensive struggles continued with a 2 of 7 shooting performance from the field (1-4 from 3-point range), however he did dish out 8 assists and is looking more comfortable with the basketball than he did during the 4 game losing streak.

C.J. Fair, seeing increased minutes in response to James Southerland's struggles, matched his season high in rebounds with 9 and scored 7 points on 3 of 5 shooting from the floor. Fair's ability it get into the lane and take high percentage shots is something that the rest of Syracuse's forward crop should be taking note of. It's not necessary to settle for jump shots, especially early in the shot clock. Take it to the hoop!

Some might say that Baye Moussa Keita took a step back on Saturday, however I would beg to differ. Keita had a match up problem against junior Augustus Gilchrist, who is at least 25 pounds heavier than Baye Moussa Keita. Rather than throw Keita to the wolves to get dominated inside, Boeheim opted to go with Rick Jackson in the middle of the zone, and the move paid off.

Keita played just 6 minutes after logging 27 minutes against UCONN, and finished with 3 rebounds and 3 fouls. Fab Melo pitched in 12 minutes for the Orangemen and also grabbed 3 rebounds, however he chipped in 4 points on 2 of 3 shooting as well. Rick Jackson meanwhile owned the paint on both sides of the floor (6 offensive and 6 defensive rebounds) en route to a 21 point night.

With the win, Syracuse notched their 20th win on the season. This is the 33rd time in Jim Boeheim's 35 year coaching career at Syracuse that he has reached the 20 win plateau. Syracuse is now 20-4 on the season and 7-4 in Big East play.

After the game Rick Jackson told reporters "Right now we're playing well. Guys are confident. I think we're all playing how we're supposed to be playing." With the exception of Scoop Jardine's shooting struggles, I think RJ is correct. And now is a great time to get our groove back, as the games on the horizon are not going to be getting any easier.

Syracuse (who just received a #13 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25) will return home to take on the hated #11 Georgetown Hoyas on Wednesday at 7PM and then travel down to #15 Louisville to take on Rick Pitino's Cardinals at 12:00PM on Saturday. We're all concerned about the early afternoon start time and Pitino's recent success against the Cuse. A win on Wednesday will help improve the Orangemen's confidence and can potentially help propel the Orangemen into the newly opened YUM! Center with a full head of steam.

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