Jardine, Syracuse uses past as learning tool for Sunday’s game

first_imgBUFFALO — This was a teaching tool, a chance to draw a lesson from one of Syracuse’s best teams ever. And Scoop Jardine simply wanted to see some early-bird highlights of Paul Pierce. Last year, Scoop Jardine sat down with Lazarus Sims to watch Syracuse’s Elite Eight upset win over Kansas in 1996. Sims, the team’s coordinator of player development, was SU’s point guard at the time. Jardine was just excited to see how the Boston Celtics forward looked in Jayhawks digs. ‘But then I started watching it and John Wallace did some great things, ‘Z’ played a great game handling the team and making big shots when they counted,’ Jardine said. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnd parallels abound between the two teams as Syracuse heads into its second round matchup with Gonzaga Sunday at 12:10 p.m. Like Sims’ 1996 club that lost in the championship to Kentucky, this Orange team is balanced. Is hungry. ‘Anytime you get up 15-20 points and think you have the game at hand, you don’t play as hard,’ Murphy said. ‘You start to get a little lax and make mistakes. That’s what happened. We came into halftime, focused in and had a run to start the second half.’ ‘These guys have the same type of chemistry as far as caring for each other,’ Sims said. ‘Like that team in ’03, it’s all about chemistry. Athleticism only gets you so far.’ At halftime against Vermont, assistant coach Rob Murphy said that coaches told players to stay aggressive. It’s human nature to let up when you’re crushing a team. Since sitting down with Sims to watch that game, Jardine has embraced an us-against-the-world mentality and embraced the idea of accepting a role. Before this season, Syracuse was predicted to finish in the middle of the Big East heap across the board. And before this season, Jardine was seen as a potential starter. The key to preventing another lapse is simple to point guard Brandon Triche. Wes Johnson promises it wasn’t boredom. ‘I think it was mental lapse,’ Johnson said. ‘I don’t think it was boredom. We didn’t focus in like we should have.’ Now with Syracuse in the thick of a title run — and Jardine locked in as a valuable backup — the Orange keeps rolling. At a younger age, Jardine admits he would have had a tougher time accepting this role. But not now. Syracuse is winning. ‘Just making sure it doesn’t happen,’ Triche said. ‘Nipping it in the bud early.’ Johnson laughed. No, the team wasn’t bored in thoroughly spanking Vermont. Like that ‘96 team, the 2010 Orange have carved specific roles and defied expectations. ‘A lot of people didn’t think they would go as far as they did,’ Jardine said of Sims’ team. ‘They always believed in themselves. They had great players on the team. They just gelled at the right time. Yes, the Orange eventually coasted to a 79-56 win. But players agree that another lapse in effort cannot happen moving forward. Another sleepwalking spell Sunday against Gonzaga would bounce SU from the Big Dance prematurely. SU looks to avoid ‘mental lapse’ Vermont never threatened. Syracuse maintained a double-digit lead throughout its rough patch. Playing haphazardly — tossing wayward crosscourt passes, not hustling back on defense — would prove costly Sunday. The Catamounts got in transition off a slew of SU turnovers, including one play in which Kris Joseph coughed the ball away directly to a Vermont player. With a comfortable 25-point lead Friday night, Syracuse gave inferior Vermont a fleeting breath of hope by allowing a 15-2 run to close the first half. ‘These guys all want to take those shots,’ Sims said. ‘They all want to take those shots, and not for selfish reasons, but to win for your team.’ Sims sees similar bravado in this team. Of course, the staple of that team in 1996 was big shots. Buzzer-beaters reigned. Different players, again and again, stepped up to hit clutch shots from Wallace to Jason Cipolla. That Syracuse team was not overly talented but players relished those shots. It’s not selfishness, Sims assures. Rather, widespread confidence. They’re close on and off the court and have rallied behind an underdog attitude at every turn. Stopping Gonzaga tall task Published on March 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm [email protected], [email protected] Comments Florida State entered the NCAA Tournament leading the nation in field goal percentage defense, not allowing an opponent to shoot 50 percent in its last 67 contests. Gonzaga had no problem stopping that streak in its 67-60 win over the Seminoles Friday night, shooting 21-of-42 from the field.Like Syracuse, Gonzaga is one of the best offensive teams in the country and Syracuse will have to turn in another solid defensive effort to stop the Bulldogs. Gonzaga entered the NCAA Tournament 26th in points per contest (77.6), 6th in field goal percentage (49.4) and 80th in 3-point field goal percentage (36.3).  If Syracuse makes the game a shootout, Gonzaga will have no problem going bucket-for-bucket.‘They’re an extremely efficient team,’ senior guard Andy Rautins said. ‘We know we’re going to have to contest every shot. We’re going to have to crash the glass hard. But, you know, that’s going to be a challenge for us. We look forward to that. We’ve seen this all year, playing against the types of teams like Villanova.’Four of Gonzaga’s five starters average at least 10 points per contest, with senior guard Matt Bouldin leading the way with 15.8 points. The Bulldogs play a three-guard set, but their big men are very efficient as well. Center Robert Sacre, at 7-foot and 247 pounds, averages 10.1 points, while forward Elias Harris cashes in 14.7 points a contest.With Arinze Onuaku not playing Sunday, it will be important for Syracuse’s big men to keep Gonzaga’s frontcourt from making a difference. Opening up the inside will make the Bulldogs that much more dangerous.‘With their height, we’re just going to have to come and play solid defense and use our athleticism to take the height away,’ junior forward Wes Johnson said. ‘That’s really just walling up and making them take tough shots and try to limit their touches as much as possible.’    Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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