Syracuse’s stifling 2-3 zone baffled and frustrated Florida on Friday night, as the Orange edged the Gators 72-68.
SU had come into the game forcing opponents to commit 20.9 turnovers a game, ranked fourth in the NCAA. Friday was more of the same as the Orange converted 20 Gator turnovers into 19 points.
“Our defense won the game,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Especially in the second half.
With the Orange trailing 49-46 with 9:20 to go after Kenny Boynton made a 3-pointer, Scoop Jardine led Syracuse back into the game with his defense.
Jardine had three of his four steals during a 16-4 run over the next seven minutes as the Orange took an insurmountable 62-53 lead with 2:34 left.
The senior got it started when he intercepted a lazy inbounds pass from Bradley Beal, and fed a streaking Kris Joseph for an emphatic slam that brought the Carrier Dome to its feet.
Jardine then stripped Erving Walker to get SU out on transition again, although Brandon Triche missed an alley-oop dunk.
On his last steal—at the expensive of Scottie Wilbek—Jardine decided to keep it himself as he went the length of the court for a tough layup in traffic as he split two defenders.
Jardine also chipped in 16 points and seven assists.
“The biggest thing was his three steals in a row and we were able to get them in foul trouble or convert on most of them,” guard Brandon Triche said. “He played a great game and I’m happy for him.”
It made up for an otherwise dreadful shooting performance from the Orange. As a team, Syracuse shot 40 percent from the field, and 3-for-17 from downtown.
Syracuse’s top scorer, Kris Joseph, finished with 14 points, but went 5-for-14 from the field and 1-for-5 from downtown.
Meanwhile, after a tough first half, Florida started to find its shooting rhythm. The Gators shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Said Boeheim: “I look at that and I say, ‘who won this game?'”
Syracuse did, thanks to its defense.