Syracuse’s Jardine a key cog in Orange’s success

The game was tied in the final minute of overtime as Scoop

Jardine surveyed the floor and began a drive from the top of the

key. The crowd of more than 27,000 roared in anticipation as

Georgetown’s staunch defenders blocked the way, looking for a

turnover.

A couple of years ago, the veteran Syracuse point guard probably

would have tried his luck at a shot.

Not this time.

After all, Jardine’s pretty layup high off the glass in the

second half was his only bucket of the game. So, it was clear that

his shots weren’t falling.

Indeed, another option would be best.

So, Jardine, a fifth-year graduate student, passed out to the

corner to a wide-open Kris Joseph. And Joseph made the decisive

3-pointer that gave No. 2 Syracuse a 64-61 victory on Wednesday

over the No. 12 Hoyas.

The win moved the Orange to 24-1 – 11-1 in the Big East – as

they get set to play another rival, Connecticut (15-8, 5-6), here

on Saturday.

Jardine was a nonfactor early, playing just seven minutes in the

opening half against the Hoyas. But he logged every minute from

there on.

”I was really trying to get in a rhythm of the game,” said

Jardine, one of 11 finalists – and the only one from the Big East –

for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the top point guard in

the nation. ”I was just trying to get what the defense was giving

me. I’m a confident player. I know I can make plays.”

It’s a sign of maturity his coach appreciates.

”He’s going to make a bad play every once in a while, but he

makes good plays,” Jim Boeheim said after his 880th victory, third

all-time in Division I. ”We need him doing that.”

Jardine, a star at Neumann-Goretti High in Philadelphia before

coming to Syracuse, started 10 games as a freshman in 2008-09, then

redshirted the next season while recovering from a stress fracture

in his left leg caused, in part, by carrying too much weight on his

6-foot-2 frame.

”My redshirt year – when I had basketball taken away from me

because of injury – was the first time I ever went through a year

without basketball in my life. It was tough,” Jardine said. ”I

had to find myself as a person.”

Jardine dropped about 15 pounds and returned with a new resolve,

averaging nearly 10 points and more than four assists despite not

starting one game in 2009-10. He’s started every game since and was

shooting 51 percent from the floor this season before going 1 for 7

against the Hoyas.

On the season, Jardine is averaging 8.2 points and 4.9 assists

in just 23 minutes.

”I’m more efficient this year,” said Jardine, second on the

team with 35 steals. ”My scoring has been down, but my goal coming

into this season was to be a special person on our team, be the

person that does the things that nobody else does.

”I just focus on being efficient, being there when they need

me, and playing as hard as I can the time I’m in the game,” he

said.

In the past eight games, he has 58 assists and only 15

turnovers.

”It’s a different mindset,” Jardine said. ”Now, I think I’m a

much smarter Scoop, a year older. That’s what I need to be.

Everybody knows I can go out and score or try to put the team on my

back. Throughout my career I’ve been doing that. For the most part,

it’s doing it now in the right moments, making the right play to

win us a basketball game.”

Deep inside, Jardine probably won’t ever change. He’s still the

same guy who once threw a half-court, alley-oop pass in a high

school playoff game that clicked, propelling his team to a lopsided

victory.

”There are things that he does that reward you sometimes,”

said Carl Arrigale, Jardine’s high school coach. ”And sometimes,

when better judgment should be made, it’s not always the top

priority.”

Jardine marvels at his long journey with the Orange. He could

have opted not to return, having graduated last May, but chose to

stay because Boeheim said the team had the chance to be

special.

So far, that assessment has been accurate.

”It’s helped me grow so much,” Jardine said. ”Everything I

went through here, there was a reason for it. Everything happens

for a reason.

”I can’t even put into words how much it helped me,” he

said.