With less than a minute remaining in Syracuse University's run-away victory against Connecticut, Jim Boeheim sent in a reserve so that Scoop Jardine could leave the court to thunderous applause. Chants of "Scoop! Scoop! Scoop!" filled the Carrier Dome and the beaming fifth-year senior point guard from Philadelphia acknowledged the fans, especially the ones in the upper deck who held up huge pictures of ice cream scoops in his honor.
"I heard it and saw it,'' Jardine said in the locker room following a sterling effort in which he converted 8-of-9 shots, including three dagger-in-the-heart 3's down the stretch, on his way to a season-high 21 points.
"It means everything to me. I am soaking it up. It was great. I never thought, coming here, I'd be as big as I am. I want to cherish everything that Coach (Jim Boeheim) has given me and everything I'm getting from everybody because this is special for me and my family."
He has played 126 games, but the time of his life is winding down rapidly. Starting with Monday's game at Louisville, there are just five regular-season games remaining, followed by the Big East tournament and the NCAAs.
"Sometimes in practice it dawns on me that it's nearly over and it makes me feel a little blue,'' he said. "I'll start wishing I was a freshman all over again."
Jardine might not be able to go back in time, but Saturday's performance was one that will stand the test of time. With a vociferous throng of 33,430 looking on - the fourth largest basketball crowd in Dome history - Jardine gave SU fans something to remember him by, fueling an 18-1 run by scoring 11 points. It capped a superb day that also saw him convert all four of his free throws, dish out six assists, make a steal and commit just one turnover. And it occurred with his father and grandmother in the stands and about 20 more relatives and friends from Philly back at his apartment, watching the game on TV.
"It's really sad because it's almost over for me,'' said Jardine, who graduated last spring and is working on a second bachelor's degree. "I appreciate everything I've gotten here at Syracuse. The fans have respected me, so every time I go out there, I want to leave everything on floor, on Jim Boeheim Court. This is it for me."
The goal, he continually reminds people, is a national championship. But there are a few other smaller goals he hopes to reach along the way, starting with Monday's visit to Louisville's KFC Yum! Center.
"Kris (Joseph) and I have never beaten them,'' said Jardine, who's averaging 8.7 points and 4.9 assists per game for the 25-1 Orange. "That's another thing I'd like to scratch off the list. It's not going to be easy. That's a pretty hostile environment."
The 24th-ranked Cardinals are on a roll, having won six straight, including a hard-fought 77-74 victory at West Virginia Saturday.
Louisville has won seven straight in the series, including twice during the 2009-10 season against SU teams that were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country at the times of those defeats.
You might remember that Boeheim became very agitated with the Syracuse media last season when the subject of former SU assistant Rick Pitino's win streak against him was broached. Boeheim went into a post-game tirade, pointing out that he had beaten Pitino's Providence College teams five consecutive times and Pitino's Kentucky team once in the first six matchups between the two Hall of Fame coaches.
"We'd like to get that monkey off Coach Boeheim's back so that you guys (reporters) don't bring that up any more,'' Jardine said, smiling. "And, like I said, Kris and I would like to get that monkey off our backs, too."
Louisville, like Syracuse, has a deep productive bench, which produced 31 points against West Virginia. So this may not be a case, like in many games, where SU's depth of talent eventually wears a team down. Plus, the Cardinals know how to attack a zone because they play one, too.
"It's going to be a chess match,'' Jardine said. "And it's up to me and our other guards to make smart decisions and find the soft spots in their zone."
NOTES: SU played its best offensive game of the year vs. UConn, shooting 59 percent from the field. Scoop, Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair converted 21-of-27 shots and combined to score 53 points . . . SU actually out-rebounded the Huskies, 31-29, thanks to Fair's 12 rebounds, including 11 on the defensive end . . . Louisville isn't a great rebounding team either. The Mountaineers pulled down seven more rebounds than the Cardinals . . . Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-10 center from the Center Tillman School in New Hampshire, took in Saturday's game. Several SU students sported pictures of Noel's high-top haircut and chanted his name as he walked by the student section before the game . . . Connecticut assistant coach George Blaney, filling in for Jim Calhoun, who's way-lowed by a balky back, was very impressed by SU. "It's as good a team as I've seen Jimmy have,'' he said. "It's certainly his deepest team." . . . Boeheim is 7-8 lifetime vs. Pitino, 1-7 since Pitino took over the Cardinals in 2001.
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