Basketball is a game of runs.
Scoop Jardine had a big second half offensively, including sinking three shots from beyond the arc, on the way to 16 points and eight assists. Dion Waiters led all scorers with 18, and the top seed in the East was eventually able to pull away from an unfortunate Kansas State.
"Scoop started to get us going," said Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim on the surge. "(He) Made some shots, made some plays. I think we shot 66 percent from the field in the second half.
"That's pretty good against a really good defensive team."
The Wildcats had an ideal start, going on a 9-2 run to open the game - led by the penetration and play-making ability of freshman point guard Angel Rodriguez, who was able to get by Jardine on a consistent basis in the opening minutes.
The Orange responded with a big-time run reminiscent of their early-season domination. Kris Joseph and Waiters began attacking the basket at will, resulting in what became a 19-2 run to put the No. 1 seed by 11 points with 8:09 left in the half.
"There was a lot of space on the offensive end," said Joseph, who attacked KSU's man-to-man scheme in the opening half on the way to 11 points. "We got open shots, open looks, and we knocked ‘em down."
As the trend went up for Syracuse, Kansas State found a way to stop the bleeding and go on another jolt – this time 9-0. The defensive presence of 6-foot-11 center Jordan Henriquez became very apparent as he altered shots and ran the floor on the way to taking 10 shots before the break. The bulk of his work when K-State had the ball was on the offensive glass, resulting in seven offensive rebounds by halftime.
But then star Wildcat Rodney McGruder rolled his ankle and wasn't the same after he returned, missing an open layup soon after re-taping the injured area.
"Tried to shoot a step-back jumper," he said. "Brandon Triche came back under me, I rolled my ankle. It was tough to play on, but I just wanted the victory so I just tried to fight it though."
Jardine, who was 1 for 4 from the floor with four turnovers at the break, shook off his subpar play in the first half with an explosive second. He hit a trio of threes and drove to the hoop once the defense reacted to his shot-making.
The defense used by KSU helped Jardine's resiliency after the slow start.
"This is the first team that played us man-to-man in a while," he said. "We been seeing a lot of zone.
"We seen the man and our eyes lit up."
James Southerland, who scored 15 points, joined Jardine from deep and nailed a pair from beyond the arc to stretch the lead to 14 with 7:07 to play and it would balloon to 16 before reaching the final margin of 18.
Henriquez was tagged with some fouls and ended up on the bench in the meantime, so the Orange was able to take advantage in the rebounding department – leading to rare second-chance points. By the time he re-entered the game, the Syracuse shooters were in control and the rebounders were confident.
"They did a good job of putting me in ball screens," admitted Henriquez, who finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds (11 offensive). "Sometimes when I guarded James Southerland, I had the support because he could shoot the ball really well. They dragged me away from the rim.
"When I did contest, they usually got into my body, hit me with a pump fake, drew a couple fouls on me early in the second half."
The scoring then came in bunches from both teams, but the Wildcats were never able to pull within 10 the rest of the way. Once time became a factor, K-State Coach Frank Martin elected to foul Jardine, who was up for the task and pressure.
As he did against UNC-Asheville two days earlier, Jardine made three of four free throws down the stretch to help seal the win to go along with his big-time shots.
"You got to forget about it, move on still be aggressive," said Jardine when asked about his mentality after a poor first half. "My teammates needed me. I was able to get in rhythm and make shots. "
The rest of the way, Kansas State threw up desperation shots, a few of which Rakeem Christmas got his hands on. The freshman, who continues to excel in the absence of Fab Melo, finished with eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
"He was tremendous," Boeheim said of Christmas. "He's just figuring it out. He's a very athletic big guy.
"I think the last probably five or six weeks, he's been playing more at center in practice, working more inside, inside game, inside drill work. I think he's getting better all the time."
Worth Noting: Kansas State played without senior Jamar Samuels on short notice. The University said the reason was an "eligibility concern."