Lost in the frustration of Syracuse’s narrow 65-59 victory over North Carolina State was another solid showing from forward Rick Jackson.
The Philadelphia native scored 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in 36 minutes of action. Jackson was also part of a defense that held the Wolfpack without a basket the final 7:12 of the game.
Syracuse (8-0) needed every bit of it to overcome a miserable 38 percent shooting day.
“It just came down to defense,” Jackson said. “When it came down at the end, they kept looking for one guy to make a three, and that killed them.”
Jackson’s improvements were evident in a relatively mundane play.
With 8:05 left in the first half, Jackson received the ball in the post and was met by reserve Wolfpack (4-3) forward CJ Leslie. Jackson took a couple of dribbles, and then hit a mid-ranged turnaround jumper in the right block.
It was a shot that Jackson didn’t have a year ago, and the type of shot Syracuse needs more than ever with the graduation of center Arinze Onuaku. The senior has delivered, and averaging 12.7 points and 13 rebounds.
Jackson has had a double-double in every game this season except for the game against Northern Iowa.
“We had an advantage inside with him down there,” Boeheim said. “He has to play well every game for us to be successful.”
Jackson has been the hallmark of improvement since his arrival on the Syracuse campus.
Last season, Jackson became a viable low post option, adding an reliable mini-hook to his offensive repotoire.
“He’s got that little hook down,” Boeheim said. “He has worked hard on it. That’s what it’s taken for us to get better.”
This past summer, Jackson shed more than 30 pounds, following a strict training and eating regime. The results have showed, as Jackson has averaged more than 34 minutes per game.
“When you lose that much weight, you’re going to move better and faster,” Jackson said. “Coach [Boeheim] is more comfortable keeping me out there because I’m working hard and not getting tired.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for SuJuiceOnline.com.