Syracuse Advances To The Sweet 16
Playing their best overall game in quite some time, Syracuse was able to pull away from Kansas State in the second half yesterday to advance to the Sweet 16. The Orange got big performances out of a few unlikely sources during their 75-59 win, and will next meet up with Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers this Thursday in Boston.
Fab who?: Rebounding has been an issue for the Orange all season even with Fab Melo in the lineup, and early in this one Kansas State dominated Syracuse on the glass. They had no answer for Jordan Henriquez in the first half, as the Wildcats big man consistently came up with offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities for his team. Making only 24% of their field goal attempts in the first half, KSU’s prowess on the glass was the only thing keeping them close.
Enter Rakeem Christmas. Largely an afterthought all season with Melo occupying the pivot, the freshman center played like a man possessed, finishing with eight points and 11 rebounds. On defense he blocked three shots and altered countless others, providing the length and inside presence ‘Cuse desperately needed. Most impressive was the fact that he played thirty four minutes and was able to stay out of foul trouble. The Orange will need him to duplicate yesterday’s effort going forward, especially if they eventually meet up with teams like North Carolina or Kentucky that have multiple skilled players on the interior.
Scoop steps up: It is often a balancing act between brilliance and head scratching plays with Scoop, and luckily yesterday we were treated to more of the former. With the game still in the balance in the early stages of the second half, Jardine hit a couple of big three-pointers and had a beautiful drive and dish to Christmas for a dunk. He capped off his performance with a teardrop over Henriquez that gave the Orange a 60-47 lead. His assist to turnover ratio (eight to six) wasn’t anything to write home about, but that’s just part of the deal with Scoop, you have to live with the good and the bad.
Bench mob: Dion Waiters and James Southerland had big games off the bench, outscoring Kansas State’s reserves by a 33-0 margin. Waiters is by far Syracuse’s most dynamic and explosive player, and when the team got off to a slow start yesterday he came in and immediately starting making plays, scoring 11 first half points. He finished the game with 18 points, and as was mentioned on the telecast he is probably the best player coming off the bench in all of college basketball. Waiters is listed as the Orange’s top pro prospect, so it will be interesting to find out if the 2012 NCCA tournament is the last we get to see of him in a Syracuse uniform.
Southerland backed up his 15 point opening round performance against UNC-Asheville with another 15 yesterday against the Wildcats. The versatile forward has been on fire from long range (making 5 of his 7 attempts) in the tournament, and with C.J. Fair struggling he is getting the bulk of the minutes at the four spot. His proficiency from beyond the arc gives the Orange another dimension and further spreads the floor, allowing Scoop and Waiters plenty of room to go to work.
Looking ahead: Next up for the Orange will be a slugfest with the Wisconsin Badgers on Thursday with a spot in the Elite 8 on the line. Badgers coach Bo Ryan is one of the top coaches in college basketball, routinely doing “more with less”. His team plays a physical brand of defense and a methodical, slow-paced, grind it out style of offense. They will try and slow it down as much as possible against Syracuse in order to prevent the Orange from getting out and pushing the pace. Athletically Syracuse has the advantage all across the board, so the Badgers and senior guard Jordan Taylor will try and muck this one up as much as possible. It will definitely be a contrast in styles, and whichever team can get the other out of their comfort zone more will likely emerge the winner. The superior team all season, if Syracuse can put together the all-around game they displayed against the Wildcats they will be one win away from going to the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
Follow us on Twitter:@PACsSports