Jim Boeheim might have forgotten his name briefly, but the Syracuse coach left no doubt he knew Lonnie Jackson was dangerous.
“I think having that kid back obviously is a big difference-maker for their team,” the longtime Orange coach said of Jackson after Syracuse rallied from a second-half deficit for a 69-59 win Monday night. “I mean, he is a tremendous shooter. We pride ourselves on doing a better job on guys like that but we didn’t tonight.”
Against No. 2 Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone, the sharpshooting Jackson seemingly found gap after gap for the Eagles and almost single-handedly kept BC in the game at points. The junior from Valencia, Calif., finished 6-for-9 on 3-pointers (and 6-for-10 overall) for a team-high 18 points.
In one stretch early in the second half, Jackson hit two 3s -- one from the left side and one from the right -- to start a run during which the Eagles overcame a five-point deficit and built an eight-point lead.
The deficit, and the sold-out, rocking Conte Forum, didn’t worry Boeheim too much.
“The thing is, I wasn’t as concerned as I would be because there was time, there was time left. We knew they would take their time, but we just wanted to find -- I can’t remember his name,” Boeheim said, looking down at a stat sheet on the table in front of him before continuing, “Lonnie Jackson -- we didn’t want to let him shoot. Have someone else shoot the ball.”
That’s a pretty good formula for BC’s opponents at the moment. Jackson hit the game-winner against Virginia Tech, his fifth 3 of the game (in eight attempts), on Saturday and is starting to feel good after injury issues hobbled him early in the season.
“I’m just starting to find a rhythm,” the 6-foot-4, 178-pounder said. “Earlier in the season, it was kind of tough for me just being injured. But now I’m starting to find my rhythm and Coach is starting to put me in positions to score. He has confidence in me and I have confidence in myself that I can knock down that shot.”
Jackson’s teammates have faith in him too.
“Obviously it makes it a lot easier on me, just knowing that Lonnie is a knock-down shooter,” point guard Olivier Hanlan said. “So whenever I get to the key and they collapse, I’m always trying to find Lonnie. And also whenever I’m pushing it on a fast break or something like that I know Lonnie’s going to run with me, so that takes a lot of pressure off.”
Steve Donahue says that Jackson is more than just a sharpshooter.
“I think there’s a lot of other, understated things that you don’t realize Lonnie does besides making shots,” he said. “When we was out, he was out for like four months, and then he came back and it wasn’t the same Lonnie and there wasn’t a rhythm to him playing. I think he’s made us a much better basketball team.
“Not only because he can make shots, but he has this sense of where to be, where to put other people. [He has an] understanding of what the coaches are trying to do and then obviously the ability to shoot the ball.”
And while the shots ultimately didn’t fall quite thickly enough for BC to hold onto the second-half lead and hand Syracuse its first loss, Jackson hitting the mark as he did had the Orange scrambling.
“We just wanted to find him and not let him shoot,” Boeheim said. “Make somebody else make a play.”
The Orange aren’t the only ACC team taking notice of Jackson, and if he stays healthy and locked in from long range, the Eagles’ opponents won’t be able to forget his name.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.