Kris Joseph scored a career-high 27 points, and Rick Jackson narrowly missed his 10th double-double, with nine points and 17 rebounds as Syracuse held off the pesky Providence Friars 81-74 in the Big East opener for both teams.
The Orange (14-0, 1-0 Big East), which came in shooting just 33 percent from 3-point land made nine of 22 shots from downtown as it beat Providence at its own game.
“It’s a confidence booster,” Joseph. “I got it going pretty early hitting some outside shots. Give credit to coach (Rob) Murphy. He has me shooting with a big ball before and after practice. Seeing that big ball go in helps me with the smaller ball.”
Providence (11-3, 0-1) came in second in the Big East with 267 3-pointers attempted. But the Friars were also only making 33 percent of them. That trend continued Tuesday, as the Friars shot eight for 29 from distance.
Marshon Brooks led the Friars with 27 points and six rebounds, going basket-for-basket with Joseph for much of the game.
Syracuse’s backcourt was productive, as Brandon Triche scored 15, and Scoop Jardine added 21 points to go with seven assists. Nine of those points came during an 14-2 run that put Syracuse up 65-49 with 9:12 left. Jardine capped it by finding Triche, who hit a 3-pointer.
“I just tried to make the right play,” Jardine said. “I got in the lane and made plays for myself and others.”
The run was sparked by Jackson, who after grabbing a rebound, caught Providence guard Kadeem Batts with an elbow while protecting the ball. Jackson was called for a technical foul.
“The guy ran into his elbow,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “The guy can’t protect the ball. It’s a terrible rule. They overreacted to the swinging of elbows. If he moved it, it was just a hair and the guy ran up into the elbow. It was a terrible call. It could’ve changed the whole complexion of the game.”
It did – but in Syracuse’s favor.
Still, the Orange could never fully pull away, as Bilal Dixon’s layup, with 56 seconds remaining, cut the lead to 75-71. SU didn’t seal the game until Jardine’s free throw, with 21 seconds left, gave Syracuse its final margin.
“Providence played us like everyone has played us in here – very patient,” Boeheim said. “When we got the lead, we made a couple of bad plays. But when they got back within four, we made some nice plays against their defense. At the end of games, we’ve been in four or five games, we’ve made good plays at the end of those games. That helped us tonight.”
Syracuse took the lead for good after the score was tied at 13 midway through the first half. Joseph and James Southerland each hit 3-pointers to give the Orange a 19-13 lead with 10:11 to play in the first half. Syracuse would take its first double-digit lead of the game with a Rick Jackson dunk, giving the Orange a 35-25 lead. Jackson also had five assists.
“He’s been a monster all year,” Boeheim said. “He didn’t force it when they came to double him. He really moved the ball to people. He played really smart, really under control.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor-in-Chief for The Juice Online.