Syracuse rolls past Connecticut

This time, Scoop Jardine was ready when Syracuse was tested by a heated rival.

Jardine hit three 3-pointers and a layup in the closing minutes to break open a tense game, finishing with a season-high 21 points to lift the second-ranked Orange to an 85-67 victory over slumping Connecticut on Saturday.

Jardine managed just three points on 1-of-7 shooting during a 64-61 overtime victory against Georgetown on Wednesday. But the senior guard came up big against the Huskies, making 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to stop a Connecticut charge in the second half.

”I was in the right position to make a shot and I did,” Jardine said. ”And then the second one, I was confident because I just made one. That kind of took them out of what they wanted to do.”

Jardine’s long-range prowess sent the Orange (25-1, 12-1 Big East) on a 19-3 spurt as they earned their fifth consecutive win since losing at Notre Dame. The victory also whipped the crowd of 33,430- the largest of the season and fourth largest in Carrier Dome history – into a frenzy.

”We shot the ball with confidence, and also shot the right shots,” Jardine said. ”There’s times when we had the right shots, but we might rush it because we’re getting into it with the crowd. We were settled in with the big crowd because we had one on Wednesday, so we knew what it was.”

Jardine was 8 for 9 from the field and had six assists against only one turnover.

Syracuse shot 59.3 percent and hit 10 of 16 from beyond the arc to offset UConn’s 8-of-19 effort from long range.

”I think offensively, this is the best we’ve played all year,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ”We made a lot of shots. When you make a lot of shots, the game gets a lot easier. If we had shot a normal percentage, we would’ve gotten beat.”

Connnecticut trailed the entire second half but closed to 63-61 on a free throw by Tyler Olander with 6:26 to go before the Orange went on one of their signature runs. They had a 23-point spurt at North Carolina State and two 19-0 surges this season.

The atmosphere wasn’t quite the same because Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was missing. He sat out his third straight game since taking an indefinite medical leave due to spinal stenosis, a painful condition in his lower back. Associate head coach George Blaney once again ran the team in his absence.

It was Blaney’s turn to shake his head afterward.

”It’s certainly (Boeheim’s) deepest team,” Blaney said. ”Whether or not it’s his best team, the rest of the season will tell you that. I have not seen one of his teams be deeper than they are. When they get in trouble, they can isolate so many different people that can just beat you.”

”We got it to 63-61 and we got a little careless both offensively and defensively,” Blaney said. ”And then it got away. You can’t have a lapse for a couple of minutes.”

Jeremy Lamb scored 18 points for Connecticut (15-9, 5-7), which has lost six of seven. Ryan Boatright had 14, Andre Drummond 13, and Shabazz Napier finished with 11 points and seven assists before fouling out late.

Dion Waiters scored 18 points for the Orange, and C.J. Fair finished with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Kris Joseph had 15 points.

Syracuse has won four of five against Connecticut, the only loss coming in overtime in last year’s Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies went on to win their third national championship last spring, but Kemba Walker is an NBA rookie now and the team has struggled despite the return of four starters from last year.

Coming off an embarrassing 80-59 loss at Louisville on Monday night, the Huskies gave a game effort against Syracuse.

”We definitely fought this game,” said Lamb, who was 2 of 10 on 3-pointers. ”There were plenty of times they hit us and we hit back. Then in the last 2 minutes they stepped it out, but the game wasn’t as bad as the score says.”

Syracuse also had a spirited effort on the glass, enjoying a 31-29 rebounding edge after Boeheim blasted the team following an abysmal showing against the Hoyas. The Orange had been beaten on the glass a combined 170-109 in four of its previous six games – against Pittsburgh (40-28), Notre Dame (38-25), West Virginia (40-21) and Georgetown (52-35).

This one was a game of swings.

After the Huskies closed to 54-52 on Olander’s three-point play midway through the second half, the Orange rallied. Fair hit a baseline jumper, Joseph drained a 3, and Waiters fed Fair for a dunk in a span of just over 2 minutes to boost the lead to 61-52.

Napier and Lamb hit 3-pointers to key a 9-2 spurt that kept the Huskies in it after trailing 43-34 at halftime.

Syracuse finishes its own version of rivalry week on Monday night at Louisville, which has beaten the Orange seven straight times.

”This is an extremely tough 10-day period,” Boeheim said. ”We had to go down to New York (to play St. John’s), play Georgetown, play Connecticut and now play Louisville. It’ll be a great game down there on Monday.”