For Dion Waiters, necessity has created opportunity.
With Brandon Triche struggling through a 2-for-9 performance against Connecticut on Friday, Waiters was called upon to play major minutes against the Huskies.
Waiters played a season high 29 minutes and had eight points, three rebounds and three assists as Syracuse lost to Connecticut 76-71 in overtime in the Big East Tournament semifinals.
“I tried to be aggressive and penetrate and dish,” Waiters said. “[I wanted to] get everyone else involved.”
Waiters definitely did that on Syracuse’s last possession of the first half. Waiters drove into the paint and drew a group of defenders and found Triche wide open on the left baseline for a 3, but the shot rimmed out as time expired.
Both of those things led Boeheim to go with Waiters for the majority of the second half and in overtime.
“[Triche] was 1 for 70 for 3 in the first half,” Boeheim said. “Dion came in and played great.”
It has been a roller-coaster season for Waiters, who seems to be peaking as Syracuse heads into the tournament.
In the past three games, Waiters is averaging over 20 minutes and 9.3 points. He’s also shooting nearly 48 percent from the field.
“I see things I didn’t see at the beginning of the year,” Waiters said. “It’s all about patience and picking your spots. If you don’t have it, there’s no need to rush.”
That was a tougher lesson to learn than it sounds.
During a four-game stretch in from Feb. 9 against Georgetown to Feb. 19 against Rutgers, Waiters shot a combined 1 of 10 from the field. To top it off, Waiters played just three minutes against the Scarlet Knights.
But Waiters’ confidence never wavered.
“I always have confidence in myself no matter what,” Waiters said. “I’m ready when my number is called.”
His number was called right after the Rutgers game. With Scoop Jardine in foul trouble for much of the game against Villanova on Feb. 21, Waiters stepped up and scored seven points in 18 minutes.
Since then, Waiters has played double digit minutes each game, and he’s still continuing to learn as the season winds down.
“We’re excited because the season doesn’t end here,” Waiters said. “Coming off a loss like this is humbling. We fought back, but the mistakes we made can help us going into the tournament.”