CLEVELAND (AP) — Defensive stopper Rick Jackson scored a season-high 23 points, C.J. Fair added 14 and Syracuse began taking care of “unfinished business” in the NCAA tournament with a 77-60 win over Indiana State in a second-round game Friday night.
The third-seeded Orange (27-7) want to make up for last season’s disappointing tourney appearance, when their title run as a No. 1 seed ended with a loss to upstart Butler in the round of 16. Jackson, the Big East’s top defensive player, scored six straight during a crucial stretch in the second half when Syracuse finally pulled away from Indiana State (20-14).
Syracuse will play Big East brethren Marquette on Sunday in a third-round game. The Golden Eagles won the regular-season matchup between the schools.
Jake Kelly scored 12 to lead the Sycamores, who got within four in the second half but had no answer for Jackson.
Syracuse didn’t finish its win until 12:41 a.m., and when it finally ended, the Orange had more to worry about than getting to bed.
With three minutes left, guard Scoop Jardine injured his left wrist in a hard fall. Jardine briefly remained in the game, but when he came back to the bench, the junior grimaced in pain when a trainer worked on his injury. Following a postgame interview, Jardine walked back to Syracuse’s locker room rubbing his wrist.
That sight has to scare Orange fans.
Last year, a late-season injury to Arinze Onuaku sabotaged Syracuse’s postseason plans, and the Orange can’t be expected to go very far this March without Jardine, perhaps the club’s most versatile player.
Although lacking in size, Indiana State went toe to toe with Syracuse for much of the night, and with 15 minutes left, the Sycamores of Larry Bird’s alma mater were within 42-38.
That’s when Syracuse went to Jackson, who was fouled underneath on consecutive trips and made four straight free throws. After Indiana State was called for a charge, Jackson’s dunk put the Orange ahead 51-38.
The Sycamores, making their first NCAA visit since 2001, pulled within 56-46, but Brandon Triche buried a 3-pointer — his first field goal — to make it 61-46 and the Orange were never threatened the rest of the way.
Syracuse has adopted “unfinished business” as its mantra since the season began. The cover of the team’s media guide features coach Jim Boeheim, his arms folded across his chest, with the slogan in bold letters.
Indiana State trailed by 17 in the first half and was teetering. But the Sycamores hit four 3-pointers in the last 6:32, closing within 38-30 on Kelly’s layup with 33 seconds left. They caught another break when a 3-pointer at the halftime horn was waved off after the officials reviewed the shot.
Inexplicably, Syracuse stopped going inside to the 6-foot-9 Jackson, who scored 12 points in the first half but didn’t have a field goal over the final 11:42.
To prepare for Syracuse’s vaunted matchup zone, Indiana State practiced with a hockey stick that coach Greg Lansing borrowed from the school’s recreation department. The idea was to get the Sycamores used to dealing with the Orange’s long arms inside.
The real thing is so much tougher.
Indiana State did do a nice job of probing the zone early on. Quick passes — many of them by Jake Odum — inside and back out got the Sycamores some open shots. Trouble was, they didn’t make enough of them and went nearly five minutes between baskets.
Syracuse, on the other hand, caught fire and reeled off 11 straight points and built a 31-14 lead.