This game was about the leadership of two guards. One who has drawn the praise and frustration from all Syracuse fans and another who had to celebrate his Senior Day from the sidelines.
Early in the season, Scoop Jardine saved Syracuse from a number of losses, but he has also made some of the most boneheaded decisions at the worst possible times. He’s made so many of these mistakes that fans have called these decisions by his name. They are “Scoopid” plays, and it’s just “Scoop being Scoop.”
On the other side was Chris Wright. Wright had started 93 games in a row but saw his streak snapped after breaking his hand against Cincinnati on Wednesday. Austin Freeman is the star of the Hoyas, but Wright is just as important. He is second on the team in points and first in assists and steals. Without Wright in the lineup, Georgetown floundered against Cincinnati, and it continued against the Orange.
With Wright out, Hollis Thompson got the start. Thompson is a great 3-point shooter, but he doesn’t create those shots on his own. He’s often the beneficiary of Wright’s drives and kicks. With Wright out, the Hoyas could not penetrate the zone and subsequently got very few good 3-point looks. Thompson finished 0-for-5 including missing on all four of his 3-point attempts.
The Hoyas made the curious decision of putting Nate Lubick around the perimeter in the first half. Lubick, the 6’8 forward is used to being around the basket or at the high post. Since he’s not a threat to shoot the 3 (4-for-17 on the season), Syracuse could prevent the inside feed and the guards were ready for the skip pass back around the perimeter. The only completely uncontested 3-pointer the Hoyas got in the first half came from Lubick (he missed badly).
Wright took apart the 2-3 zone in the first matchup, finishing with nine assists and just one turnover. Without him, the Hoyas seemed content to work it around the perimeter and settle for contested jumpers. Georgetown was just 2-of-12 from distance in the first half, and on top of that, it turned the ball over 10 times.
Georgetown played a much better second half and began to do the things Wright would have. The Hoyas took care of the ball, turning it over just six times after the break. The guards started to penetrate and kick and the Hoyas knocked down four of their first five 3-pointers. They put Lubick back inside and at the high post, and this paid dividends. He moved the ball inside and out and had a few nice hustle plays.
The Hoyas scrapped their way back into the game and after trailing by 10 at the half, they took the lead, 45-43 halfway through the second. That’s when Scoop took over. The Orange went on an 11-1 run including seven from Jardine. No shot was bigger than his 3-pointer with less than five minutes remaining. After a timeout, leading 49-46, the Orange couldn’t get anything going offensively. SU passed it back out to Scoop with 10 seconds left on the shot clock and he juked and then pulled up for the 3.
It was one of a handful of times Scoop was put in this type of position. Sometimes Jardine tries to do too much but other times he is forced into those situations. Jardine actually finished 7-of-16 from the field but because few of those were poor choices, his shooting night didn’t seem as bad as his percentage would suggest.
But what has really killed Syracuse and left fans scratching their heads have been some of the unforced errors from Scoop. The errant alley-oops, the bullet passes to offensively challenged players or simply a lazy pass that then leads to a layup on the other end. But last night, he had just one turnover and seven assists. This type of ball control is infectious, and when the point guard isn’t making poor decisions, the rest of the team usually follows suit. SU turned it over just nine times in the game.
Of course, there was still a couple moments of Scoop being Scoop. His one turnover was a swing pass to Dion Waiters, which he threw behind his target with no defenders on either of them. And then there was the missed free throw on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 40 seconds remaining and the Orange up just three. But the positives well outweighed the negatives in this contest.
The Orange will close out the regular season next Saturday against DePaul. It will have a chance to improve to 12-6 in the Big East and have a decent shot at a double bye. But SU doesn’t control its own destiny. It currently sits in fifth place with Pitt already having clinched a double-bye and Notre Dame, Louisville and St. John’s still ahead of the Orange. Louisville holds the tiebreaker over Syracuse (head-to-head). Assuming Syracuse defeats DePaul and improves to 12-6, here are the possible ways it could finish in the top four:
-Notre Dame loses its last two games – versus Villanova, @UConn
-St. John’s loses one of its last two games – @Seton Hall, versus South Florida
-Louisville loses two of its last three – versus Pitt, vs. Providence, @West Virginia
None of these scenarios are very likely. But Big East seeding isn’t the goal for the Orange. SU seems to be peaking at the right time, having won four in a row and setting itself up for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
-Boeheim talked about how beneficial playing just two games in the final two weeks would be for his team. He said it would get some of the younger players more prepared, and it seems to have done that. James Southerland had been MIA for quite some time, and he contributed with nine points in the first half as well as adding great defensive intensity. Dion Waiters was solid, hitting on 2-of-4 shots (no awful shots) and no turnovers. Even Fab Melo contributed with seven minutes and one awkward alley-oop slam.
-Of course not everything went smoothly. Kris Joseph barely contributed on the offensive end. He was just 2-of-7 for four points. Brandon Triche had his third poor shooting game in a row. He’s a combined 7-for-36 in those three contests, but I still think he needs to continue to be aggressive.
-Georgetown needs to quit it with the “We Are Georgetown” chant. That’s Marshall’s cheer, and I frankly find it insulting that it would try to take it as its own.