Before they graduate in the spring, the two main seniors on Syracuse's men's basketball team, Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine, have one more goal in mind - a national championship. So it was ironic that academics may have caused the first serious on-court crisis of the Orange's season.
An issue with first-semester grades reportedly kept Fab Melo from joining SU on its two-game road trip to Notre Dame and Cincinnati, and when the Melo-less Orange fell to the Fighting Irish 67-58 Saturday night in South Bend, a 20-game win streak ended.
Before all this, though, Jardine and Joseph helped SU knock off Pittsburgh last Monday 71-63 inside the Carrier Dome and break its own school record by winning 20 straight to open the season.
The Orange had a hard time converting shots down the stretch, but won the contest at the free-throw line, making 11 of its last 12 shots. And the defense played well overall, despite allowing a few easy interior Pitt baskets and getting out-rebounded, 19-8, on the offensive end.
Not only did the Orange surpass its record 19-0 start from the 1999-2000 season, it marked the 34th time in Jim Boeheim's 36-year coaching tenure that SU has got to that 20-win plateau. Boeheim also tied Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp with 876 career wins.
It was a tale of two teams that, at the time, were heading in opposite directions, the Panthers falling to 0-6 in the Big East. Still, SU’s offense was not sharp after starting out on a 15-4 run.
However, there were enough positive contributions from five players who scored in double figures. Dion Waiters had 16 points on six-for-eight shooting, while Jardine accomplished a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.
Melo, in the last game before his benching, was an important factor, posting his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.