In front of more than 33,000 fans, Syracuse veterans Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph were honored by their teammates on senior day with a dominating performance against No. 19 Louisville on Saturday en route to the best regular season record in team history (30-1, 17-1 Big East) and their first home win over the Cardinals (22-9, 10-8).
Brandon Triche shot out of his slump for a game high 18 points on 50 percent shooting, Dion Waiters supplemented that with 13 of his own and SU cruised to a 58-49 win despite early struggles on both ends.
The Orange came out shooting from distance, connecting from beyond the three-point line and at the charity stripe. No. 2 Syracuse didn't get its first two-point field goal until Fab Melo followed up a Waiters miss with a tap-in with nearly 11 minutes gone by in the opening half.
"It was a struggle," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said in his opening statement after the game. "But we went on that run…"
We've seen this movie before.
Syracuse played well defensively in the first half, and it led to chances to push the pace on the offensive end. The interior protection forced jump shots, and the Cardinals responded with a 33 percent shooting performance. The combination led to another signature Syracuse run. This one was of the 12-0 variety and it was a part of an 18-6 spurt that the Orange used to close out the half.
The run wasn't dominated by any one player, as James Southerland, Joseph and Triche all connected from long range in the process. The Cardinals went over four minutes without a basket, allowing a lead that was once six points slip away.
And they wouldn't get it back.
"When they got some open shots, they just didn't make them," said Boeheim. "That happens sometimes. They had some good looks and I guess (Kyle) Kuric made enough threes against us during his career.
"He used them all up."
Louisville's best player and senior leader finished the game with just eight points on 1-of-7 shooting from long-range in 32 minutes.
Syracuse's momentum carried over into the second half, as Triche scored a quick eight points on a pair of threes and a layup just 93 seconds into play. It was a sign of things to come, as C.J. Fair got into the act as well as Waiters on a spectacular hang-in-the-air layup while dodging Peyton Siva's block attempt.
"Brandon got us going, there's no question about that," said Boeheim.
"It's pretty cool to make shots," said Triche, who hadn't scored in double-figures since January 28 against West Virginia. "I haven't made a group of shots in a long time."
The Orange's lead ballooned to 50-31 at one point, forcing the Cardinals to call a timeout to try and halt the momentum Syracuse established out of the break.
The road team would put together a late effort, including a 9-0 run, that closed the gap down to 10 – but it would dip under double-digits just twice the rest of the way.
Jardine only played 18 minutes and failed to score, but the experience was still something he will remember for a long time.
"It was very emotional," Jardine admitted after his final game at the Carrier Dome. "The most important thing is that my family got to cherish this moment with me.
"They've been with me through everything from my freshman year to my fifth year."
As for Joseph, he wasn't really thinking about it until the end.
"The fans giving me a standing ovation was really nice, but during the course of the game I was just thinking about the game," said Joseph, who finished with 11 points. "You definitely want to end out your career, your last game at the Dome, you want to go out with a bang."
Consider it a bang as Syracuse finishes up its greatest regular season ever, iced with a perfect record at home for just the second time in school history. The first since the Orange cut down the nets in 2003.
The Orange have earned a double-bye in the Big East Tournament as the No. 1 seed, so their first game will be Thursday at noon.