By now, everyone that follows Syracuse basketball is quite aware that the Orange won a fair share of non-conference games (William & Mary, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State) by close margins.
So, having survived those tests, SU went out last Tuesday night and, in a hard-fought Big East opener in the Carrier Dome, beat the stubborn Providence Friars 81-74.
"In the beginning of the season, those (close) games helped us," Syracuse guard Brandon Triche said. "William & Mary, Michigan, Georgia Tech, and Northern Iowa were all tough games. We were able to pull them out. That made us tougher as a team.
"When (this game) got down to four points, we were very comfortable. We knew that we were going make a play."
For SU, it was just another win over Providence, whom it leads in head-to-head meetings 46-10. The Orange shot consistently well, finishing at 25-for-52, or 48.1 percent. They held their opposition to 39.7 percent from the field and 26.7% beyond the arc.
SU remained unblemished at 14-0 as the Friars fell to 11-3, and though it has played very well, the Orange cannot take that success for granted as a difficult Big East schedule (including Saturday's 2011 curtain-raiser against Notre Dame) looms ahead.
In the last two minutes, SU was pushed, but Scoop Jardine calmly knocked down a 12-foot jumper. Providence could not force a turnover and, were forced to foul. The Orange impressively made 5 out of 6 free throws in the waning seconds.
After all of his inconsistent shooting in previous games, Kris Joseph has turned it around. Joseph led his team in scoring with 27 points on eight-for-13 shooting. In addition, he was multifaceted, grabbing five rebounds and doling out four assists.
Jardine added 21 points and seven assists, including the critical free throws in the concluding moments - and all this after a first half where he had just four points. In a three-minute span of the second half, Jardine transcended his performance to a higher level, erupting for nine of the Orange's 14 points during a critical stretch.