Syracuse isn’t there yet, but they took another step in the right direction last night at Madison Square Garden.
The No. 8 Orange took care of No. 7 Michigan State, 72-58 behind a dominating performance from senior forward Rick Jackson.
Jackson scored 17 points and hauled in 16 rebounds as the ‘Cuse won the battle of the boards, 38-30 over the Spartans who led the nation in that category the last two years.
Jackson is averaging more than 13 points and 12 rebounds this season, which are both career highs. He lost more than 20 pounds in the off-season and it seems to be paying off with seven double-doubles in his first nine games. He’ll definitely be a key cog in the wheel for head coach Jim Boeheim,who has a very limited offense so far this year.
Syracuse (9-0) was 2-11 from behind the arc Tuesday night and is shooting just 29 percent for the season from three point range. Their free throw percentage is not much better (64 percent) and will eventually haunt them, if they can’t find a consistent shooter from the outside.
Points in the paint and a fast break offense will be the recipe for success this season. The Orange simply do not have a pure shooter on the team like an Andy Rautins or Gerry McNamara. Scoop Jardine is streaky from the outside, along with Brandon Triche and freshman guards C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters but the real bulk of the offense will likely come from 15 feet and in with Jackson and Kris Joseph.
Syracuse is very long and very athletic, but they are not a good shooting team. If they can continue to get double-doubles from Jackson and even Kris Joseph, then this team has a chance to be successful, but it won’t last until they prove they can make shots from the outside.
Right now they are winning ugly, but a win is a win and every one counts heading into Big East play. Seven teams in the conference are currently undefeated.