Syracuse senior point guard Scoop Jardine has been a mainstay over the past two seasons and has produced plenty of quality work. But in the Orange's 69-58 victory over Virginia Tech in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Jardine only saw the floor for five second-half minutes and finished with just two points.
The reason was that substitute Dion Waiters was playing too well, scoring nine of his 11 points at the end of a 24-8 second-half run that put Syracuse securely in front, 56-45. The shift won't be as cataclysmic for Jardine as it was for Yankees second baseman Wally Pipp, who took a sick day and was replaced by Lou Gehrig for the next 2,130 games, but Orange coach Jim Boeheim stuck with the benchwarmer over the starter for good reason.
No one was more impressed than Hokies coach Seth Greenberg, who said of the 6-4, 215-pound Waiters, "The guy is a beast. He attacks in transition; he attacks off ball screens. He's shooting the ball now, which makes it that much more difficult to guard. He came off a double ball screen, turned the corner and blew it right to the front of the rim."
Greenberg was referring to a layup by Waiters near the end of that 24-8 run. "To have a guy like that come off the bench, he can single-handedly change a game," Greenberg added. "He's kind of an Energizer Bunny on the offensive end of the floor. He's physically strong.
"Scoop was a good player who has had a great career. This guy [Waiters] has a chance to be really special. He's got kind of an NBA guard's game."