The whole depth thing that people have been raving about all season has mostly been overblown. However, it was clear as day how important that depth was in the Syracuse Orange's 58-55 victory over the Connecticut Huskies in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Scoop Jardine spent most of the second half on the bench and Kris Joseph didn't make a field goal until the final minutes of the game. Meanwhile Dion Waiters led the way with 18 points and James Southerland came alive with two second-half three-pointers and two critical field goals to stave off the Husky menace and push the Orange into the semifinals where they'll face the winner of Georgetown vs. Cincinnati.
Syracuse was up three at the half but the Huskies made a run to open the second half, going up by as much as eight points. That's when SU went on one of their patented runs to cut the lead and take it back. Things got dicey when Fabricio Melo chose the worst possible time to work out his 20-foot jumper and he heard about it from his teammates, but the rest of the squad rallied and kept the moment up as UConn went cold.
The Orange didn't look dominant but they won the game, which has been a running theme for the past two months. While the depth was a huge help tonight, the Orange won't be able to last through the entire NCAA Tournament just on that. Scoop's gotta figure out what his issue has been the last two games and Kris can't just be a late-game wonder. There's only so many times we can lean of Southerland and Brandon Triche to pick up the slack.
Kris finished with 10 points on 1-8 shooting, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Triche added seven points and seven rebounds.
Rakeem Christmas played eight minutes and made the most of it, grabbing five boards in what might have been a season-best performance. C.J. Fair scored two points in 18 minutes of action without his headband (full boxscore here).
The Orange will play Friday at 7 p.m. EST and the game will be televised on ESPN.