PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- A quick take on Rutgers' 74-64 loss to Syracuse on Sunday afternoon at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, a game much closer than the final score indicates.
WHAT IT MEANS: Rutgers gave Syracuse a heck of a fight at a packed RAC, but couldn't quite take out the No. 2-ranked Orange. It's the Scarlet Knights' fifth straight loss, which drops them to 12-15 overall, and 4-10 in Big East play.
Syracuse survives a scare in a tough road environment, and improves to 27-1 overall, 14-1 in the Big East.
THE SKINNY: The first 20 minutes were tight, with neither team leading by more than six. Tied at 32 with three minutes remaining, Syracuse ended the half on an 8-2 run to make it 40-34 at intermission. Rutgers forward Gilvydas Biruta had 14 first-half points, but he was matched by Syracuse forward C.J. Fair, who had 14 off the bench.
Syracuse extended the lead to seven, 46-39, early in the second half. But Rutgers responded with five straight points, and the game remained close until the final three minutes. With Syracuse leading 64-62, Scoop Jardine hit a jumper to extend the lead to four with 2:42 left. Then Jardine delivered the dagger, a trey with 1:12 left that made it 69-62, and the Orange closed it out from there.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Biruta was a monster for Rutgers in this game, finishing with a team-high 21 points and seven rebounds, shooting 9-for-14 from the field. Mike Poole was the only other Scarlet Knight in double figures, with 10 points off the bench.
Syracuse's Dion Waiters has probably been the best sixth man in the country this season, but today his fellow reserve, Fair, was the star. The 6-foot-8 sophomore had 21 points and eight rebounds -- 6-for-8 from the field, 8-for-8 on free throws. And Jardine, the senior point guard, was huge down the stretch, finishing with 17 points and seven assists.
NUMBER CRUNCH: In a pretty even game, the glaring difference was on the foul line. Syracuse outscored Rutgers 21-9 at the charity stripe -- and the Orange missed 10 free throws as well. Syracuse was 21-for-31, while Rutgers was 9-for-11.
WHAT'S NEXT: Rutgers faces a very tough road game, at No. 13 Marquette (22-5, 11-3 Big East) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Syracuse hosts South Florida (16-10, (9-4 Big East) the same night at 7 p.m.