With only three games remaining on their regular season schedule, the Syracuse Orange have done themselves few favors over the past two games— losing to No. 11 Georgetown and No. 22 Marquette. Now they must face No. 10 Louisville, then go on the road for a rematch against the Hoyas in what could be the most anticipated Big East game of the entire season.
Last night’s loss to the Golden Eagles once again displayed Syracuse’s deficiencies rebounding, as they lost the battle for boards by a 30-26 margin. Orange forward C.J. Fair posted an impressive stat line, going 8-11 with 20 points and not sitting on the bench once. The loss was not for lack of effort by Syracuse, but clearly road games are becoming a problem as they’re 1-4 over their last five games away from the Carrier Dome.
You almost have to squint your eyes to make out the team that at one point was 19-1, and had just beat No. 1 ranked Louisville on the road. Be it complacency, or that other teams are catching onto the Orange’s game plan, head coach Jim Boeheim must find a way to get his team back to their early season form, when it appeared they might be the best team in the nation. Now they don’t even look like the best team in the Big East, as Georgetown, Louisville and Marquette are all catching fire at just the right time.
Marquette had a clear cut MVP last night with the outstanding play of forward Davante Gardner, who racked up 26 points while going a perfect 9-9 from the field, and 12-13 from the free-throw line. Gardner also notched a team-high 8 rebounds, which was good enough to help the Golden Eagles capture the 74-71 victory. This was an absolutely monster game from Gardner, who averages 12.1 ppg, and 5.0 rpg this season. Having a big man (6-8, 290 pounds) who can shoot with efficiency inside, while also posting an 86% free throw percentage is truly invaluable for late game situations, when many teams need to switch out their bigs for high FT percentage guards. And when there were just 20 seconds on the clock last night, that’s exactly what Gardner did, sinking his two free throws to extend Marquette’s lead to 70-63.
The Golden Eagles will be looking to finish their schedule out strong as they face only one ranked team during their final three games. This critical win over Syracuse should solidify them a higher seed come March, and also give them a much needed confidence boost on the heels of a home loss against unranked Villanova.
With all of these late season upsets, we can only be certain of one thing: this will be a phenomenal Big East Tournament. March 12th people—mark it on your calendars.