Philly toughness just what Syracuse needs in second half

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PITTSBURGH -- You hear the two names together: Scoop and Dion. What do you think? Boy-band? You certainly don't think toughness.

But that's exactly what you get from Syracuse guards Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters: In-your-face, Philadelphia toughness with no backing down. It's that city game.

Kansas State found out all about that grit in the second half of the teams' third-round East Regional game here at the Consol Energy Center on Saturday afternoon.

With their only true NBA talent at home because of academic issues and their inside game getting destroyed by K-State's inside people, the two Philadelphia kids took over in the second half. Consequently, the top-seeded Orange advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 75-59 win over Kansas State, which was much tighter than the final score indicates.

Jardine had 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Waiters had seven of his game-high 18. In one stretch, the two made consecutive drives to the basket for tough, hard baskets that got the Orange going.

Not bad for cousins.

I asked Waiters after the game to describe Philadelphia toughness.

"That's self-explanatory," he said.

Both come from a tough part of south Philadelphia and have had their share of heartache. Waiters has lived through four of his friends or relatives shot to death.

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Playing a basketball game is nothing compared to that, even one to advance to the next round of the NCAA tournament.

Getting Jardine and Waiters going was imperative for a Syracuse team that certainly hadn't looked good the past two games. It lost in the Big East tournament to Cincinnati and then struggled Thursday to beat 16th-seeded UNC-Asheville.

That led to questions about whether Syracuse could do any damage without center Fab Melo, who was ruled ineligible Tuesday on the eve of the tournament. The Orange started slowly even though Kansas State was without starting forward Jamar Samuels because of "eligibility concerns," a move that was announced just before the tip.

After a fast start by Kansas State, Syracuse went on a 19-2 run before Kansas State crept back in to make the score 25-24 at the half.

Syracuse was eaten alive on the inside early. They led at the half, but they were outrebounded 28-16, 15-3 on the offensive boards. Kansas State's 6-foot-11 center Jordan Henriquez had 11 rebounds at the half.

As it played out, one had to wonder about the words of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim following the team's victory Thursday: "This wasn't about the center position."

It became about the center here Saturday -- and could again down the road. The Orange, despite what they might say, miss Melo in a big way.

"We got killed on the boards," Boeheim said. "Second-chance points I think were 12 of their 24."

In the second half, Jardine really got it going. He didn't play well in the opening game and seemed slow to start against Kansas State. He had two points, three assists and four turnovers in the first half. He looked out of sorts at times, but rallied in the second half.

"My teammates needed me," the senior said.

He knocked down three 3-pointers as the Orange started to look like a top seed. He also finished with eight assists. It helped that Henriquez went to the bench with three fouls with 11:08 left and Syracuse leading 47-42. The Orange went on a 16-5 run to break it open.

The run was led by Jardine, a likable kid who got his nickname from his grandmother because she thought his head was shaped like an ice-cream scooper (Real name: Antonio).

"Thank God for two halves of basketball," Syracuse forward Kris Joseph said. "He had a chance to redeem himself."

Boeheim added: "In the first half, despite what he might think, he really struggled. He made some bad decisions. You know I don't know what he was doing on a couple of those plays. And we struggled. You know, we're a point guard-oriented offense."

One more piece of Jardine trivia: Word is he's dating Michael Jordan's daughter.

Jardine is much more of a grinder than his girlfriend's father. But he has that same on-court toughness, even if he smiles a lot more off it.

Waiters, the team's sixth man, has a sharper edge. But his 18 points helped Syracuse with a 33-0 advantage in bench points.

Waiters said part of his motivation as being the underdog. What? He said Boeheim told them they were before the game.

Funny the things coaches will use.

"He tricked you," I said.

"Tricked me into playing better," he said.

The Orangemen might not have their big guy, but the two Philadelphia guards and their toughness might just be enough to get them to a Final Four -- and maybe more.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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