Although Dion Waiters had been a major story in the opening games of Syracuse’s season for his strong play off the bench, the starting backcourt of Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche carried the team to their biggest win of the season, knocking off #9 Florida in the Carrier Dome Friday night, 72-68, as part of the Big East/SEC Challenge. The 8-0 Orange, who are ranked #3 in the nation, got 36 points from their starting backcourt, including 25 in the second half, in defeating the Gators (5-2). SU turned in a stellar defensive effort, forcing 20 turnovers that they turned into 19 points, to help offset a 3-for-17 shooting effort from outside the three-point-line.
Florida jumped out to an early lead, getting on top by a 7-2 margin before the game was two minutes old. The Orange clawed back, though, knotting the game at 10 just after the five-minute mark. The two teams traded scores for the next several minutes, with the Gators taking a lead, then Syracuse matching the score, until SU got back-to-back baskets for their first lead of the contest at 18-16 with under eight minutes on the clock. The squads resumed trading scores until the Orange got a basket and a three-point play to take a 25-21 lead with under five minutes to go. Florida quickly erased that lead, but Syracuse rattled off six straight points for their largest lead to that point. The Gators scored the final basket of the half to send the game to the break with SU holding a 31-27 lead.
The Gators nipped the margin down to two with the opening score of the second half, but SU replied with an 8-1 run to take a 39-30 lead. Florida was undeterred, though, and used a barrage of three-pointers to power a 19-7 burst that gave them a 49-46 lead with just over nine minutes remaining. Syracuse did not wilt under the pressure, though, scoring eight straight points to regain a five-point lead. After the two squads traded a couple scores, the Orange got a three-pointer and a free throw to stretch the lead to 62-53 with just over 2:30 to play. The Gators responded by getting back within five, but the Orange closed the game by making 6-of-7 free throws in the final 49 seconds to hold on for the win.
Brandon Triche topped the Orange with 20 points on the night, scoring 13 after the break and connecting on all nine of his free throw attempts. Jardine had a strong all-around game, complementing his 16 points with seven assists and four steals, both game highs. Jardine’s offensive output made him the 56th player in school history to score 1,000 points. Kris Joseph was the third SU player to reach double digits, dropping in 14. Both C.J. Fair and Fab Melo chipped in with nine points and Fair had a personal-best 11 rebounds, as well.
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