Syracuse outlasts stingy Yellow Jackets
Syracuse's offenserounded into championship form at last.
Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine led the way for the ninth-ranked Orange, with five players finishing in double-figures and the kind of terrific shooting coach Jim Boeheim expected in an 80-76 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday night to win the Legends Classic.
''We got a dangerous team when you got guys like that,'' Jardine said. ''It's going to happen where everyone can contribute. We're going to be a dangerous team.''
The Orange (6-0) clicked all game and found the well-balanced offense Boeheim said was missing during the team's perfect start. Boeheim complained after Friday's win over Michigan about the Orange's struggles shooting the ball. They heard the complaints and responded, going 11 of 18 in the second half to help gradually stretch the lead.
Joseph shook off early foul trouble to score 19 points, while Jardine had 15 points and eight assists. Rick Jackson kept his strong start going with 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Dion Waiters scored 13 for the Orange.
''It shows that we have a lot of talent on this team,'' Joseph said.
Syracuse kept on track for an undefeated start heading into its game against No. 2 Michigan State on Dec. 7 at Madison Square Garden.
''We need to have balanced scoring,'' Boeheim said. ''We don't have a guy that's going to go out there and score 30.''
Georgia Tech did, but it wasn't enough to upset the Orange.
Brian Oliver scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (4-2). His sizzling start from three-point range gave Georgia Tech an early lead and a feeling of hope they could pull of the upset.
Instead, the Syracuse players mugged for photos with their championship trophy and showed it off to the several thousand Orange fans who took over Boardwalk Hall.
Joseph got hammered on a flagrant foul and crashed to the court with 47.5 seconds left. He was down on all fours for a couple of minutes, and Boeheim went out and checked on his hurting forward. Boeheim and Joseph walked off the court together.
Oliver was called for the foul and Jardine filled in to shoot the free throws.
Boeheim said Joseph hurt his chest, but was fine.
Oliver was nearly a one-man show for Georgia Tech, hitting jumpers and three-pointers from all over the court. He went 12 for 21 from the field and 6 of 11 on threes. Inman Shumpert had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Oliver opened the second half with a three-pointer that gave him a career high in points and the Yellow Jackets the lead.
From there, Syracuse got going.
Joseph, in foul trouble, buried a three for a 51-49 lead. The Orange went out and scored more points by the 12-minute mark (54) than they did the whole game against Michigan (53).
The Orange built a 10-point lead for the first time on two free throws by Joseph.
Oliver ditched the long-range game for a little runner and Jason Morris hit a long jumper to whittle the deficit to 71-63, but that was about it as far as serious threats for Georgia Tech.
''It's not the ending I wanted,'' Oliver said. ''Yeah, I scored a lot, but it's for nothing because we didn't get the win.''
Oliver came out determined to beat the Orange by himself from three-point range. He opened the game with one and hit two more quick ones against the 2-3 zone to stagger the Orange and help Georgia Tech take a nine-point lead.
Oliver scored 13 of Georgia Tech's first 23 points and finished the first half with 18 points.
''Zones are what I love because I am a shooter,'' he said. ''I know I can make deeper threes than what I usually take. I got hot and I just got going.''
Oliver had little help and eventually fouled out.
''They just decided to enforce their physical will on us and we didn't match it,'' Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. ''We didn't match it at all.''
Joseph, who scored 22 points on Friday against Michigan, was whistled for his third foul with 8:33 left in the first half and went to the bench.
Without him, the Orange rallied and scored like a top-10 team, not one that Boeheim said couldn't beat a 10-win team.
The Orange went on a 12-3 run and took their first lead on C.J. Fair's three-pointer with 11 seconds left. That pushed the lead to 38-36, and it stayed that way at halftime. Fair scored 10 points.
Boeheim played hyped freshman Fab Melo just eight minutes in the first half after he benched the seven-footer for good after four minutes against Michigan. Boeheim said Melo wasn't rebounding or playing as a defensive difference maker for the Orange.
Melo was scoreless in 10 minutes on Saturday.
Boeheim was just glad the Orange finally delivered a complete performance.
''We hadn't played well for five games and won,'' he said. ''Tonight, we played well and we won.''