Syracuse avoided becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in NCAA history. They did not, however, avoid controversy.
Two calls in the final two minutes went in SU’s favor, as the Orange escaped with a 72-65 win to advance to the round of 32. They will play 8th seeded Kansas State on Saturday.
“I don’t think luck had anything to do with it today,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I think the better team won.”
The first call happened with 1:20 left and the Orange up 62-58.
Scoop Jardine was at the free throw line and missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But UNC Asheville was whistled for a lane violation after J.P. Primm entered the painted area before the ball hit the rim.
Jardine had another chance and hit both free throws.
The second, a much more egregious call, came with 35 seconds left and the Orange up 66-63.
Brandon Triche was bumped trying to receive an inbounds pass and the ball clearly deflected off Triche’s hands.
No foul was called.
Instead, the ball was awarded back to Syracuse.
“All the noise about the ball going out of bounds? Triche got pushed,” Boeheim said. “That’s why it went out of bounds. Maybe they missed the out of bounds [call]. They missed the foul. Those things even out.”
The Orange executed the ensuing inbounds and Jardine made two more free throws to put the game out of reach.
“Tonight, we were better than Syracuse,” Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach said. “They deserve all the recognition they got this year. But we were the better team tonight.”
“That’s why they make scoreboards,” Boeheim said, intercepting a question that had been asked to Jardine and forward Kris Joseph.
“Retweet,” Joseph said.
Brad Bierman contributed to this story with reporting from Pittsburgh.