The test against Syracuse, when both teams were ranked in the top 10, was disappointing on several fronts. Through January of last year, ‘Nova was a legitimate Final Four contender, having been ranked as high as No. 2 in the country and receiving several votes for the top spot. But by the time the game rolled around, ‘Nova had a pedestrian 3-3 record over its previous six games and the matchup would serve as a good measuring stick to see if the struggles were just a blip on the radar, or something more.
This game was supposed to tell us something about the Orange. It was supposed to tell us whether it is a legit contender. But once Kris Joseph’s head ricocheted off the court over the weekend against Cincinnati, the idea that this game would determine whether it’s a championship-caliber team went out the window. Pitt once again had Syracuse’s number. The Panthers have won five straight and 13 of 16 against the Orange. Overall though, this was a positive game for the Orange in which there were a lot of positives to take away from the loss.
It might not be how you start, but that can certainly help. The Orange jumped out to an 18-3 lead largely thanks to Rick Jackson’s dominance in the post. He had 6 of the first 11 points as Cincinnati made the curious decision not to double him. It’s amazing how far Jackson has come. Of course his scoring is up as his playing time has gone up and he’s developed quite a post game but what’s often overlooked is his ball handling skills and limiting mistakes. Last season he had an assist to turnover ratio of .88. This year he has nearly doubled that with a 1.64 A/T ratio. Those that play fantasy basketball are aware that that is quite a high number for a forward/center. He simply doesn’t make that many mistakes. Jackson finished 7 for 8 for 15 points and 11 rebounds. It was his 11th double-double of the season.