Florida came out shooting from deep, as expected, yielding the early lead. Erving Walker hit a pair of open three-pointers in the first four minutes, but he was matched on the other end by the unlikeliest of players for the Orange, Fab Melo. The big man had a pair of dunks in the early going, including a poster-worthy slam over Cody Larson that swung the momentum SU's way.
"I felt great," Melo said of the early success. "Every time I got the ball I tried to finish strong."
The game became a back-an-fourth affair from that point on, though ‘Cuse would take the lead on a 5-0 run and extend the lead on a 6-0 run late in the first half. The latter push was fueled by Brandon Triche, who converted a pair of free throws, assisted on a basket and rejected Kenny Boynton's last-second shot attempt as the half came to a close.
After the game, coach Jim Boeheim re-iterated that Triche may not know how good he really is. The junior admits he's shy, but knows that's where he wants to be.
"Im trying to get there," Triche said after making all nine of his free throw attempts. "I have to make sure I believe that (how good he is)."
Syracuse kept its foot on the gas to open the second half, opening up a nine-point lead less than four minutes into play. The margin was reached on consecutive inside scores from Joseph, C.J. Fair and Triche. Florida's Boyton stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer, and he hit two more over the next five minutes – each to tie the game. Walker put the Gators on top with just under 10 minutes to play, and the back see-saw affair continued.
Boyton and Triche traded shots from downtown before SU went on another run. Actually down by three points after Boyton's bomb from long range, the Orange went on a 12-4 run over the next six minutes to take an eight-point lead with 3:35 left in regulation. Florida wouldn't get closer than three the rest of the way, as SU hit its free throws in the waning moments – led by Triche.
"Brandon hit a huge one when we were down three," Boeheim added. "And then Scoop hit a big one coming off."
Jardine, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in the win, finished with four steals as well. Boeheim flat-out said he won the game for the Orange as well.
" I'm happy coach honored me (but) the team won the game," Jardine said. "For the most part we all won this game."