Pittsburgh – A quick take on Syracuse’s 72-65 win against UNC Asheville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament:
WHAT HAPPENED: With a major upset filling the air in front of a near-capacity crowd of 18,927 in the Consol Energy Center, SU finally broke open a close game in the final six minutes to avoid being the first top-seed to lose to a 16th seed in tournament history. Four crucial free throws in the final minute, two by Scoop Jardine and two from Brandon Triche sealed the victory. Two calls that went in Syracuse’s favor in the final minute had the crowd, looking for the upset, howling in anger at the officiating.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse had its hands full with the scrappy, senior-dominated Bulldogs until James Sutherland, Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine woke up on offense in the second half combining for 36 points in the half, and the Orange “D” tightened up inside.
HERO: James Southerland. The junior forward came off the bench to be exactly the spark the Orange needed erupting for 16 second-half points to finish with 18 and 8 rebounds. His three-point basket with under 3:00 to play gave the ‘Cuse an eight-point lead which the Orange held.
ZERO: The Orange three point shooting, 1-13 (7%) in the first half, and the defense against the Bulldogs three pointers. UNC-Asheville shot 40% from beyond the arc.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will play Kansas State Saturday at the “Consol” in the Round of 32. K-State won the day’s earlier match-up with S. Miss. 70-64. It will be the first meeting between the two teams in the NCAA Tournament since 1975, when in thrilling fashion SU beat the Wildcats in overtime to win the East Regional and advance to the school’s first Final Four appearance in San Diego.Brad Bierman (Follow on Twitter @BradBierman)