MBB : Cooper: With role players contributing, Syracuse heads into postseason with confidence

first_imgSyracuse’s shooters are finally on point. After a handful of close games in which the Orange had opportunities to pull away from its opponents but failed to, the team had the cutthroat 3-point shot to knock down Louisville.Brandon Triche had his best shooting game in more than a month. James Southerland — shooting just 20.4 percent from 3-point range in Big East play — provided an offensive spark in 20 minutes on the floor. And Dion Waiters chose his spots wisely when he took jumpers, hitting 2-of-3 from deep.In an essentially meaningless game five days before the Big East tournament begins, Syracuse could not have had a better result. The Orange got production from all of its playmakers who were in a bit of a rut down the stretch. Syracuse’s 8-of-21 shooting mark from 3 isn’t spectacular, but the 6-of-11 performance from Triche, Southerland and Waiters in the 58-49 win over the Cardinals was impressive.The performance is reassuring going into the postseason.‘There’s going to be games in the (NCAA) Tournament where they’re going to be keying in on a lot of us,’ Scoop Jardine said. ‘And they’re going to be the guys to make shots and open up the game, and today that’s what they did.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWaiters has played well as of late, but this was still the first time since Feb. 4 at St. John’s that he made more than one 3-pointer.Still, he oozed confidence in his shot Saturday. With SU leading 54-42 and distancing itself from Louisville, he stood at the top of the arc commanding the offense. Fab Melo started to come out of the paint to set a pick, but Waiters waved him off.The paint was clear as Waiters was isolated with Chris Smith. But instead of driving, he pulled up and drilled a 3 over the U of L guard, backpedaling to play defense with a smile.‘It just gives you that boost of confidence going into the next game,’ Waiters said.Heading into the Big East tournament, and eventually the NCAA Tournament, having at least one hot shooter will be key for the Orange. Syracuse has its flaws (see: rebounding), but a superb shooting performance can win a game.Take Saturday’s performance. Syracuse got hammered on the offensive boards, allowing 18 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points. The Orange also uncharacteristically turned the ball over 15 times and got zero points, three assists and three turnovers out of Jardine.If Jardine played well and Syracuse had done a better job taking care of the ball, the Orange could have beaten Louisville by 20. But it didn’t matter in a game in which SU’s shooters were on target.‘This was one of our few easy games in the last eight,’ head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘If you look closely at the last eight games we’ve played or whatever it is, the last several, I think we had a couple games in there that were easy. The other six could have gone either way.’In a one-point win against Louisville on Feb. 13, the Orange was an abysmal 1-of-15 from 3. Syracuse blew a double-digit lead against Connecticut on Feb. 25 by shooting just 1-of-7 from 3 in the second half.Those games were made more difficult by Syracuse’s shooting. Saturday was different.After the game, Jardine smiled when he spoke about what he saw from Triche and Southerland. Two players who have not been settled in their roles recently burst out. Southerland also contributed three blocks in addition to his seven points.All year, the talk about Syracuse has circled around depth. Deepest team in the country. The bench eclipsed 1,000 total points in the Louisville game. Waiters and C.J. Fair could start for any other team in the country. The praise goes on and on.But where that depth is utilized most is in games like Saturday’s. Jardine went scoreless and Joseph finished below his season average in points. Triche and Southerland were there to pick up the slack.‘They’re very good players,’ Boeheim said. ‘They’re very good offensive players. And we’re going to need them.’Mark Cooper is the sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] on Twitter at @mark_cooperjr. Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on March 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: [email protected] | @mark_cooperjrlast_img read more