Riley steps up after seeing increased minutes in vital stretch

first_imgBUFFALO — Rick Jackson said he didn’t want to pick up that third foul and the seat on the bench that would come with it.Nevertheless, just 55 seconds after foul No. 2 against Gonzaga on Sunday, Jackson committed his third foul and made the long, sad walk back to the bench.Syracuse only led Gonzaga by one point. Big but raw freshman DaShonte Riley was about to play extended time in the Orange’s most important game of the season. The game was in the balance, and Syracuse’s center was a rarely used player who averaged 1.4 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.The defining moment of the game loomed ahead.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘I knew that the team needed me, and I wanted to be that presence in the middle, but DaShonte got in there and he did a good job,’ Jackson said. ‘And that’s when I finally relaxed. He’s handling the middle, and I just couldn’t wait for the second half to start up.’Syracuse could have wilted. Instead, it closed the half on a 25-11 run that helped ice the game in the Orange’s 87-65 win over Gonzaga in a second-round West Regional game at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.Gonzaga’s 7-foot center, Robert Sacre, scored just one basket in the final 8:58 of the first half, with Riley doing a serviceable job of containing him.‘This team has had such great cohesiveness all year no matter what five guys are on the floor,’ shooting guard Andy Rautins said. ‘We’re all on the same page. We’re more than confident in DaShonte stepping up and having big minutes. He’s progressing every day. We have confidence in whoever is on the floor.’When Jackson left, Syracuse quickly used a 9-0 run to balloon its lead to 31-21, before Gonzaga sliced the lead to 32-28. Rautins then scored four straight points, before finding Brandon Triche for a layup that pushed the lead back to 10.In that final 8:58, the Orange stepped up defensively, limiting Gonzaga to just 11 shots and forcing four turnovers. Gonzaga tallied just two buckets in the final 3:49 of the half.‘When (Rick) went out, me and Kris took it upon ourselves to get to the boards,’ Wes Johnson said. ‘When DaShonte came in, we knew we would be fine when he came in. We would have to crash the boards more and really make an emphasis on defense to get out to the shooter and make it tough for them.’The soft-spoken Riley was pleased with his performance in the extended time, which saw him total 15 minutes with an assist and a steal but no points or rebounds. He played for all but 29 seconds of that 8:58 stretch.‘I wanted to go out there and play hard,’ Riley said. ‘I know I was going to play some minutes in this tournament, but I never knew I would be put in a situation where the game was that close, but at the same time I just wanted to go out there and play hard and just give an effort.’Triche comes on again For Brandon Triche, it’s all about confidence.As the season wound down, the freshman point guard said his confidence was low. That stopped him from attacking the basket and playing aggressively like he normally does. He did not score double-digit points since a game against Providence on Feb. 2, and his numbers dropped like an anchor.But in his first two NCAA Tournament games, the offensive output has returned, coinciding with a rekindling of his confidence. Triche scored 13 points against Gonzaga on Sunday and is now averaging 11.5 points per contest in the Tournament. He hit two more 3s against the Bulldogs, moving his two-game total to five. He had just five 3-pointers in his last 14 games entering the Tournament.‘My confidence is high, I’m having fun and that’s the key. You just have to have fun out there,’ Triche said. ‘Toward the end of the season, I really wasn’t having fun out there and also just putting a lot of pressure on myself to do good, so I think that kind of affected my game. So now I’m just playing at ease. I’m at ease with myself, and I’m playing comfortable and I’m helping the team out.’Triche scored all 13 of his points in the final 8:15 of the first half. He hit a 3 and scored on a layup to expand SU’s lead to 29-21, before connecting on a 3 that gave Syracuse a 46-30 lead. He only took three shots in the second half, with Syracuse comfortably cruising along on its way to the Sweet 16.‘Once I see the ball go through the net, my confidence rises to another level and that’s a big thing with me, being comfortable and having confidence,’ Triche said. ‘If my confidence is high, I’m going to help the team out.’[email protected] Comments Published on March 20, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more