Herb Pope should’ve known better.
With one second left in the the first half of Syracuse’s 75-49 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday night, Pope clutched the ball near the basket with Fab Melo swooping in. Pope threw up a feeble layup attempt that Melo promptly rejected for one of the easiest and most dramatic of his career high 10 blocks as the Carrier Dome erupted.
“They kept coming right at him and he was there,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said to reporters following the game. “He had a great defensive game.”
It was part of a Syracuse single game record, besting Etan Thomas’ previous high of nine. Overall, it was part of a stifling Syracuse defense that forced 23 turnovers as the Orange won its first Big East game of the season.
“When they get steals, when I get blocked shots, that helps the team,” Melo said. “That’s going to give the team energy so they can play better.”
Speaking of long standing records, Melo nearly had another one tonight, as he finished with 12 points and seven rebounds to go along with the double digit blocks. The last Orange to finish with a triple-double was Allen Griffin in the 2001 season.
Melo had to settle for the first double-double of his career.
“I didn’t worry about numbers today,” Melo said. “When I got to the bench the players said I needed three rebounds for a triple-double and I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even realize that.'”
The last time these two teams met, Syracuse was blown out at home 90-68 by Seton Hall on Jan. 25.
In that game, Melo scored just two points in four minutes of play. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Herb Pope, scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
What a difference 11 months makes.
Pope had come into Wednesday’s contest as a double-double machine, averaging 20.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. But Melo frustrated the senior all night, as Pope shot just four points and nine rebounds on 2-for-7 shooting.
“I knew I had the talent, I just had to put a lot of work in and it paid off,” Melo said. “All I did on the court was give my all, a lot of energy, a lot of effort, and the numbers paid off.”