Everything is not always what it seems.
Despite the 85-67 final score of No. 2 Syracuse’s Saturday afternoon win over Connecticut, the first 34 minutes were nothing like the final six, when the Orange dominated and ripped off a 22-6 run to widen the gap and seal the game.
Prior to those deciding few minutes, Connecticut had shed the “anemic” label that had been plaguing their offense and was going punch for punch with Syracuse.
Even with freshman Andre Drummond rolling his ankle and spending time on the bench in the second half, the Huskies were able to keep the game within two before back-to-back three pointers from Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine began to kick the door in.
Dion Waiters punctuated the late-game effort by finishing a layup through contact, then looking over at his bench and flexing his muscles in show.
Jardine led the Syracuse attack with 21 points on an impressive 8-of-9 from the floor, also adding six assists and just one turnover. That snaps a streak of three games of ineffectiveness for the Philadelphia native, who was a combined 7-of-21 against West Virginia, St. John’s, and Georgetown.
Waiters finished with 18 points off the bench and CJ Fair added 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The most impressive part of Syracuse’s showing today was that, despite Connecticut making a few separate runs to get back into the game, the Orange were able to respond with a counteroffensive of their own to keep the Huskies at bay.
The lethal Syracuse transition game, led by Jardine, translated into a 59 percent shooting performance, including 10-of-16 (62 percent) from three-point range.
Defensively, Syracuse’s biggest takeaway from Saturday afternoon should be their difficulties keeping Husky guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier to get into the lane and create for themselves and their size down low.
Connecticut’s ball movement was effective in breaking down the Syracuse zone, which also led to 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc for Boatright and Napier.
But Syracuse showed what a good team is made of: hold an opponent off for the majority of the game, then land the knock out punch in the final minutes.
And home court advantage certainly didn’t hurt, as the Carrier Dome packed in the biggest crowd in college basketball this season, 33,340.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_