With the score tied at 68, and two minutes left in the game, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim diagrammed a play with Brandon Triche as the point man on an in-bounds play.
Initially, Scoop Jardine flashed to the goal and drew a St. John’s defender. That helped open up Fab Melo, and Triche threaded a pass inside that led to a layup. The Orange would never relinquish that lead.
“I get him a lot because he is really big,” Triche said to reporters following the game. “He used it and was able to make a great play.”
A few plays later, Triche again orchestrated another layup for Melo. This time, Triche streaked down the middle of the lane, and found Melo on the left baseline for a reverse layup. Those plays propelled the Orange to a 79-73 win, advancing Syracuse to the Big East semifinals.
Triche was at the center of the charge, as he had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“Brandon has stepped up his shooting and given us somebody to go to,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said to reporters after the game. “We didn’t have that early in the year.”
But SU certainly has that now.
Triche has become Syracuse’s most reliable shooter, especially at the free throw line. Triche knocked down four in the closing moments of the game and finished 8-for-8 overall. That extended his record free throw streak to 37 consecutive makes. He also went 4-for-10 from downtown.
“We got a few open shots,” Triche said, “and knocked them down.”
But it wasn’t always this way for the Orange.
Syracuse went through a stretch in late January and early February where the Orange lost four in a row, and six of eight.
“The time we were losing we were having loose rebounds and loose balls,” Triche said. “We were trying to make great offensive plays instead of concentrating on defense.”
But that seems like a long time ago, now. The Orange has now won six in a row, and will face Connecticut in the semifinals on Friday.
“We stayed together and Rick and Scoop as leaders they brought the whole team together,” Triche said. “Now that we’re moving, we’re hard to beat.”