Last time they played: Carter-Williams breaks out with 13-point performance in 95-70 win over St. John’s last year
It was one of Syracuse’s most complete performances of the year.
Fab Melo returned from his three-game span of academic ineligibility to solidify the interior of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. Dion Waiters recovered from his shooting slump with highlight-reel plays that Michael Carter-Williams would improbably surpass.
“It’s fun,” said then-senior forward Kris Joseph after the game. “When you’re winning by this much in the Big East, we’ll take it. We had fun out there. Some great plays occurred, and that’s how we like to play.”
On one of basketball’s grandest stages, the No. 2 Orange (23-1, 10-1 Big East) blew out St. John’s (10-13, 4-7) 95-70 on Feb. 4, 2012. In front of a sold-out crowd of 19,979 at Madison Square Garden, Melo, Waiters and forward C.J. Fair each scored 14 points to lead SU. Playing the most minutes he had seen in three weeks, Carter-Williams broke out to score 13 points in what would be his only double-digit scoring performance of the year.
Exactly two weeks removed from SU’s first loss of the season – a nine-point, poorly rebounded decision at unranked Notre Dame – Melo didn’t miss a beat in his return.
When the Orange needed offense, the sophomore center dunked a two-handed tip slam for the first – and only – lead change of the game. The next possession, Melo swatted a layup attempt by Moe Harkless to start a fast break at the other end.
“I know I affect the zone,” Melo said. “I intimidate the other team. They’re not going to go inside to try to get layups, stuff like that. That’s what I do.”
On an afternoon when starting guards Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche only combined for 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, Waiters and Carter-Williams were the playmakers in the backcourt.
In Waiters’ previous three games altogether, the sophomore guard shot a combined 7-of-28 from the field and only scored two points at Cincinnati on Jan. 23. But he snapped out of his funk in style.
Five and a half minutes into the second half, Waiters pulled out his signature spin move that SU fans often saw but defenders couldn’t stop. In a one-on-one fast break, Waiters planted his right foot, spun around God’sgift Achiuwa and finished with his right hand off of the glass to extend SU’s lead to 27. He also threw down a trademark tomahawk dunk in transition and made a pair of 3-pointers.
“I think in some of the games, he’s had easier shots than tonight, he just hasn’t been making them,” said SU head coach Jim Boeheim, who tied Dean Smith for third all-time career wins in Division-I history with 879 after beating St. John’s. “Over the course of the season, you’re going to have bad nights and you’re going to bounce back from it.”
Carter-Williams, usually stuck as the odd man out in the rotation behind Jardine, Triche and Waiters, logged 17 minutes on the court and put together his best game of the season. The freshman was 5-of-6 from the floor, including three 3-pointers and what was perhaps SU’s dunk of the year.
With nine and a half minutes remaining in the second half, Carter-Williams drove into the paint in transition and launched toward the basket. Ball in his right hand, he slammed an emphatic dunk over the extended right arm of Achiuwa. The jam sent shockwaves through MSG. An image of the slam is still Carter-Williams’ Twitter photo a year later.
“Any time I step on that floor, I’m just trying to play as hard as I can,” Carter-Williams said after the game. “ … We haven’t really given it to a team like we did tonight. We all played well, and we were just hungry to go out there and win.”
– Compiled by Phil D’Abbraccio, asst. copy editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
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