Rebounding, which has been a weakness for Syracuse all season, was not an issue during Saturday night’s 71-69 win over Connecticut—especially in the first half.
The Orange outrebounded the Huskies 39-35, as all 10 players who got on the court registered at least one rebound. Things were going so well that the Orange actually held a 23-13 lead in the first half.
“When we outrebound somebody, that’s unusual,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said to reporters following the game. “Highly.”
Fab Melo collected nine rebounds while CJ Fair and Kris Joseph had seven each. Scoop Jardine led the backcourt with five.
“For the most part in the first half, we got a lot of them,” Jardine said. “And that’s why we had the lead we had.”
Not so much in the second half, as the rebounding margin grew closer, leading to the Orange squandering a 17 point lead.
Connecticut came back to tie the game at 69 with 51 seconds left. Fittingly, it was an offensive rebound from Andre Drummond that led to the game-tying basket.
Drummond finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds—seven on the offensive glass. The Huskies combined for 16 offensive rebounds, turning into 14 second-chance points.
“Second half, we didn’t do a good job on the boards,” Boeheim said. “We struggled a bit.”
Still, it was a rebound that gave Syracuse the final lead of the game.
With 27 seconds left, Boeheim called a play for Fair to drive down the left baseline. Fair flipped up a shot that missed, but Melo dunked in the rebound.
It was the fourth game in a row that the Orange had to make a play toward the end of the game to win it.
“They find a way to make a play at the end of the game – whether it’s a defensive play at Louisville, or offensive plays, tip in, drive – they’ve found a way all year long to make something good happen,” Boeheim said. “We made four or five great plays at the end of this game.”