PITTSBURGH — Syracuse is ranked as the No. 2 team in the country, and in the second half against Kansas State, the Orange played like it.
Syracuse, now 33-2 on the season, defeated No. 8 seed K-State 75-59 on Saturday at the Consol Energy Center to end the Wildcats’ season.
K-State led 30-28 with 18:34 remaining in the game, but a 17-4 run by the Orange proved to be too much for the Wildcats to overcome. Syracuse began to get to the basket off the dribble in the second half, breaking K-State’s defense down, and because of that, Jordan Henriquez got into foul trouble.
“The first half we really guarded the ball well and when we guard the ball well it’s going to keep our bigs out of foul trouble because they all have to rotate and try to block shots,” sophomore guard Will Spradling said. “Then the second half we were getting broken down off the dribble more and that made our bigs come over to help and put them in a situation where they could get in foul trouble.”
Scoop Jardine, the Orange’s point guard, scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, including going 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. Jardine, who had three assists and four turnovers at the half, dished out five assists to just two turnovers in the final period.
“I continued to be aggressive,” Jardine said. “I didn’t let the turnovers bother me. I was able to get my rhythm and make shots.”
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said Jardine’s play in the second half was one of the biggest keys in his team’s ability to take control of the contest.
“We’re a point-guard oriented offense, especially when you play a team like Kansas State,” he said. “They take away your wing passes, so you really have to do stuff off the dribble. We really couldn’t do that very well in the first half.
“We spread them out a little bit and were able to get dribble-penetration against them (in the second half).”
The Orange made 14-of-21 from the field in the second half, including going 5-for-5 from 3. But as good as they were on offense, Boeheim was even more pleased with his defense, which held K-State to 31-percent accuracy from the floor.
“The key was our defense,” Boeheim said. “We kept them on the perimeter. (Rodney) McGruder is good at getting in the lane. He got in there a couple times. For the most part we kept him outside the lane.”
Boeheim said he wanted his team to entice K-State’s forwards into taking mid-range shots, something they did.
“We figured they’re not going to make a high percentage,” he said. “If they’re shooting it, they’re not rebounding it. That’s what we were attempting to do — not let their 3-point shooters get set up.”
McGruder suffers injury
Rodney McGruder, K-State’s leading scorer, left with 6 minutes remaining in the first half with an ankle injury. The junior guard returned with 2:43 left in the half, but he didn’t have the same explosiveness he usually has.
“I tried to shoot a step-back jumper and Brandon Triche came back under me. I rolled my ankle,” said McGruder, who scored 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “It was tough to play on but I just wanted the victory so I just tried to fight through it.”
“He gutted it out,” Martin said. “He’s going to struggle to walk tomorrow.”