Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine knows that one day, the Orange won’t be so fortunate.
On Wednesday night, SU trailed South Florida 18-5 after 10 minutes in its 56-48 win. The Orange had just two field goals during that stretch, while the Bulls kept hitting shots. But the Orange managed to grab the lead before the end of the half, thanks to a 26-0 run that gave SU the lead for good.
Jardine, a fifth-year senior, knows that the pattern can’t repeat itself if the Orange is to make a deep postseason run.
“Our offense was stagnant and watching each other,” Jardine said. “We can’t be that way because teams will jump on us. We can’t spot a team 20 points.”
Little was going right for the Orange in the early going, thanks to a perfectly executed game plan from the Bulls.
South Florida methodically worked the ball around and used the entire shot clock. Not only did that lead to the Bulls taking good shots on offense, it also had the effect of taking Syracuse out of its offensive rhythm on the other side of the court.
Too often, the Orange was settling for outside jumpers.
“Obviously we didn’t get off to a good start,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We really did not play great for that period of time.”
But two things happened that sparked the big run.
First, Boeheim implored his team to start attacking the basket.
Dion Waiters heeded his coach’s advice, slicing through the USF defense for a tough layup. On the ensuing possession, Waiters did the same thing, only this time, he dished to CJ Fair for an easy slam.
From there, Jardine took over, scoring 12 of the 26 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Jardine, normally a facilitator, ended up with a team-high 15 points.
“I do a great job of putting pressure on the defense off the pick and roll,” Jardine said. “Teams are playing me to pass, so I’m doing what I want to do now and I’m picking them apart.”
Jardine played a big role of the second part that allowed SU to take the lead—defense.
The Orange forced nine turnovers on that run, switching to a full-court press that sped up the pace of the game. USF point guard Anthony Collins was especially flustered during that stretch, committing four of his eight turnovers.
Jardine had two of those steals as the Orange opened up a 36-22 lead with 16:49 left.
For the game, Syracuse forced 18 turnovers that led to 14 points.
But the defense hasn’t been the issue.
“Our defense has been good all year,” Jardine said. “Our offense has to be better. We’re easy 60, 70, 80 point scoring team a game and we’re scoring 50. That’s not going to get it.”
Simply put, the Orange cannot continue to come out flat.
“You don’t want to get down like this,” Waiters said. “We have to come out and do a better job of running our offense.”
Corey Mallonee contributed to this story with reporting from Syracuse.