Though an early-season championship game took place on Friday, it looked nearly as sloppy as the Duke-Butler NCAA title game two years ago. Turnovers, poor shooting and plenty of fouls were the story of the first half.
"We played 40 minutes of good defense," coach Jim Boeheim said. "And 35 minutes of terrible offense."
In the opening 20 minutes, neither team held a lead greater than four points. The defenses combined to force 27 turnovers, and the offenses combined to shoot just 22 of 59 from the floor. To make matters worse, the Cardinal technically were the batter free-throw shooters with a 2 for 6 tally, while SU shot just 1 for 5 from the stripe.
Things changed in a hurry in the second, as both offensive units found touch – especially from long range. Six combined three-pointers were made in the first nine minutes of second-half play, including back-to-back from Jardine.
The teams' improved offensive game led to several lead changes, though the turnovers would reappear eventually. Jardine was a part of a few, and he was benched for the rest of the game in favor of Brandon Triche. Boeheim elected to utilize the same lineup that helped to rally the offense against Virginia Tech two days earlier, with Triche and Waiters in the backcourt with Fab Melo, C.J. Fair and Joseph up front.
Along with full-court pressure, Melo's inside presence proved to be the difference on defense after the zone had been breached by Stanford's Aaron Bright.
"He had a presence in every pass I made and every shot that I took," Bright said of Melo. "He definitely had an impact defensively for them."
The result was the same against the Cardinal as it was against the Hokies for the Orange, as the pressure defense led to easy baskets. During one stretch, Joseph scored nine straight points to keep SU in the game. He was later named the tournament's most outstanding player.
"He stepped up and made the big plays," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said of Joseph. "We were trying to contain him as much as we possibly could."
A seven point deficit was erased by the Orange with under five minutes remaining, and the explosion led to a six-point advantage. The 13-point swing held in the end as Joseph and Triche made good from the free throw line.
Fair and Waiters continued to provide a spark off of the bench, and both earned a spot on the NIT All-Tournament team as a result.
Syracuse returns to action on Friday (December 2) against Florida.