Needing a win against DePaul to clinch the fourth seed and a double-bye in the Big East tournament next week, Syracuse did exactly what it needed to do.
After DePaul (7-23, 1-17 Big East) scored the first points of the game, the No. 12 Orange (25-6, 12-6) went on an 11-0 run and never looked back as Syracuse notched a 107-59 victory in the final game of the regular season.
Offensively, it was one of the best games Syracuse has played all season, as it shot 71 percent from the field and 7-for-9 from beyond the arc. Defensively, the Orange dominated the slower and smaller Blue Demons. The Orange blocked more shots (12-0), rebounded better (37-18) and also stole the ball (13-6) with regularity.
Syracuse also did a good job stopping Brandon Young, who came into the game as DePaul’s second leading scorer. He had averaged 22 points over his past two games, but couldn’t find any kind of rhythm. He finished with five points on 2-for-10 shooting. Had it not been for Tony Freeland’s 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting, this game could’ve been uglier than it was.
What it means: Syracuse will finish no lower than fourth in the Big East after the win, which means it will get a double-bye in the Big East tournament next week. For a team that had lost six-of-eight conference games earlier this season, the Orange is peaking at the right time after winning its fifth in a row. The Orange has done it with defense, as four of those five wins came after SU held its opponent below 65 points.
Meanwhile, DePaul finishes the season in last for the third year in a row. The Blue Demons have had some bad luck this season, including losing leading scorer Cleveland Melvin to a season-ending thumb injury. Fortunately for the Blue Demons, they have an excellent recruiting class coming in this fall, and if the DePaul can stay healthy, it may make some noise next year in the Big East.
Hero: On senior day, the Orange’s lone graduating senior, Rick Jackson had another strong performance. He scored 14 points and added seven rebounds and four blocks, completely dominating DePaul inside. Jackson finishes his career with his fingerprints all over SU’s record book.
Jackson is one of only five players in Orange history to record at least 1,000 points, 800 rebounds and 200 blocked shots. He ranks 10th in rebounds. He is one of only 54 SU players to score 1,000 points in his career.
Positive signs: Brandon Triche got out of the doldrums, shooting 3-for-6 for nine points after shooting a combined 8-for-36 over his past three games. Everyone on SU’s bench had it going Saturday afternoon, as Dion Waiters (12), CJ Fair (11) and Fab Melo (10) all were in double figures. The most impressive was Melo, who showed a variety of post moves and even buried a 15-foot jumper.
Quote to Note: “OMG and that’s not with a smiley face, that’s with a dunk nasty face.” – Color commentator Dickey Simpkins after Fair’s dunk plus a foul over Freeland with 3:34 left in the second half.
What’s next: Syracuse will play the winner of the 5/12/13 matchup. That means that SU will face either St. John’s or the winner of the Seton Hall and Rutgers game. The Orange has beaten all of those teams this season, but Syracuse also suffered an embarrassing 90-68 loss to Seton Hall on Jan. 25 at the Carrier Dome.