SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — The game was tied in the final minute of overtime as Scoop Jardine surveyed the floor and began a drive from the top of the key. The crowd of more than 27,000 roared in anticipation as Georgetown’s staunch defenders blocked the way, looking for a turnover.
A couple of years ago, the veteran Syracuse point guard probably would have tried his luck at a shot.
Not this time.
After all, Jardine’s pretty layup high off the glass in the second half was his only bucket of the game. So, it was clear that his shots weren’t falling.
Indeed, another option would be best.
So, Jardine, a fifth-year graduate student, passed out to the corner to a wide-open Kris Joseph. And Joseph made the decisive 3-pointer that gave No. 2 Syracuse a 64-61 victory on Wednesday over the No. 12 Hoyas.
The win moved the Orange to 24-1 — 11-1 in the Big East — as they get set to play another rival, Connecticut (15-8, 5-6), here on Saturday.
Jardine was a nonfactor early, playing just seven minutes in the opening half against the Hoyas. But he logged every minute from there on.
“I was really trying to get in a rhythm of the game,” said Jardine, one of 11 finalists — and the only one from the Big East — for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the top point guard in the nation. “I was just trying to get what the defense was giving me. I’m a confident player. I know I can make plays.”
It’s a sign of maturity his coach appreciates.
“He’s going to make a bad play every once in a while, but he makes good plays,” Jim Boeheim said after his 880th victory, third all-time in Division I. “We need him doing that.”
Jardine, a star at Neumann-Goretti High in Philadelphia before coming to Syracuse, started 10 games as a freshman in 2008-09, then redshirted the next season while recovering from a stress fracture in his left leg caused, in part, by carrying too much weight on his 6-foot-2 frame.
“My redshirt year — when I had basketball taken away from me because of injury — was the first time I ever went through a year without basketball in my life. It was tough,” Jardine said. “I had to find myself as a person.”
Jardine dropped about 15 pounds and returned with a new resolve, averaging nearly 10 points and more than four assists despite not starting one game in 2009-10. He’s started every game since and was shooting 51 percent from the floor this season before going 1 for 7 against the Hoyas.
On the season, Jardine is averaging 8.2 points and 4.9 assists in just 23 minutes.
“I’m more efficient this year,” said Jardine, second on the team with 35 steals. “My scoring has been down, but my goal coming into this season was to be a special person on our team, be the person that does the things that nobody else does.
“I just focus on being efficient, being there when they need me, and playing as hard as I can the time I’m in the game,” he said.
In the past eight games, he has 58 assists and only 15 turnovers.
“It’s a different mindset,” Jardine said. “Now, I think I’m a much smarter Scoop, a year older. That’s what I need to be. Everybody knows I can go out and score or try to put the team on my back. Throughout my career I’ve been doing that. For the most part, it’s doing it now in the right moments, making the right play to win us a basketball game.”
Deep inside, Jardine probably won’t ever change. He’s still the same guy who once threw a half-court, alley-oop pass in a high school playoff game that clicked, propelling his team to a lopsided victory.
“There are things that he does that reward you sometimes,” said Carl Arrigale, Jardine’s high school coach. “And sometimes, when better judgment should be made, it’s not always the top priority.”
Jardine marvels at his long journey with the Orange. He could have opted not to return, having graduated last May, but chose to stay because Boeheim said the team had the chance to be special.
So far, that assessment has been accurate.
“It’s helped me grow so much,” Jardine said. “Everything I went through here, there was a reason for it. Everything happens for a reason.
“I can’t even put into words how much it helped me,” he said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.