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Fair, Jardine ensure No. 2 Syracuse closes in on Big East title

Feb 19, 2012, 4:10 PM EDT

spt-120219-cjfair Getty Images

C.J. Fair turned in a career game. Scoop Jardine showed off some clutch shots.

Turns out that was the winning combination Sunday for No. 2 Syracuse against Rutgers.

Syracuse’s sophomore wing dropped career-best 21 points on Rutgers, including 14 in the first half when he was one of the few Orange players who didn’t struggle. Jardine, the senior point guard, took over late, hitting a contested jump shot and a clutch 3 to seal the 74-64 win.

“Scoop is the kind of guy who, all game, he’ll let the game come to him,” Rutgers junior Dane Miller told the Newark Star-Ledger. “Then at the end of the game, he’ll hit a 3. That’s what Scoop does. I knew he was going to take that. That’s what Scoop does.”

Jardine finished with 17 points, seven assists.

Syracuse (27-1, 14-1 in the Big East) is now one win from clinching the Big East for the second time in three seasons. It leads Marquette and Notre Dame by 2.5 games with three left to play. That’s a credit to its overall dominance of the league this season – no one’s close in wins or efficiency – but the Orange have had a few issues lately.

In their seven-game win streak, only wins against St. John’s (95-70) and UConn (85-67) showcased the Orange at their best. Rebounding continues to be an issue and sophomore guard Dion Waiters has been hot and cold. Even Sunday’s win was much closer than the 10-point margin indicated.

That’s a tribute to Syracuse’s poise and continued interior defense – seriously, why ever take it into the lane when you can shoot a mid-range jumper and just crash the boards? – not to mention Jardine’s moxie.

Yes, maybe Syracuse could lose in the second-round of the NCAA tournament. But that applies to almost any team. It’s also a team capable of cutting the nets.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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