For the third straight outing in the NCAA Tournament, the 2-3 zone defense of Syracuse stifled its opponent, this time top seed Indiana, and propelled the Orange to a 61-50 win in the East Regional Semifinals. SU (29-9) held the Hoosiers (29-7) to making just one-third of their shots on the night, as well as forced 19 turnovers, including a dozen in the first half. The victory gave fourth-seeded Syracuse its second consecutive berth in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
Through three NCAA Tournament games, the Orange defense has limited its foes to a collective 31.0 percent (49-of-158) shooting mark from the field, including a stingy 11-of-67 (16.4 percent) from three-point range. That SU defense has also been opportunistic, forcing 53 turnovers in those contests.
Both teams got off to a slow start and Indiana held a 3-2 lead in the opening minutes. The Syracuse defense was responsible for the Hoosiers’ slow start, not allowing them a basket for more than six minutes. The Orange offense got a fast break dunk from Brandon Triche to trigger a 9-0 burst and take a lead they would not give up. Indiana finally got a field goal to stop the run and traded scores with SU for a couple minutes until scores on two consecutive possessions pushed the Syracuse lead to 22-9 with under 6:30 left in the half. A Hoosier bucket off an offensive rebound slowed the Orange momentum, but SU scored the next seven points for their largest lead of the night at 29-11 with under four minutes until the break. A 9-2 run got Indiana back within 11, but a three-point-play from C.J. Fair righted the Syracuse ship. The Hoosiers got a bucket before halftime, clipping the SU lead to 34-22 at halftime.
Indiana scored five points within 90 seconds to get within seven points to open the second half, then whittled the margin down to 38-32 less than six minutes into the half. The Orange responded with six straight points to restore the 12-point lead a couple minutes later. The Hoosiers twice got within nine points, but after the second time, Syracuse scored on three of their next four trips to push the margin to 52-37 with 7:25 remaining. SU nudged the margin to 16 shortly after, but Indiana fought back, including hitting a triple to close within 56-46 with under four minutes to go. The Orange tightened up the defense, forcing three consecutive empty Indiana trips while adding on four free throws on the offensive end to take a 60-46 lead with 1:45 to go, then cruised to the final buzzer.
Both starting Syracuse guards exploited their height advantage in the game, consistently getting inside the key for easy looks. Michael Carter-Williams led the way with a career-high 24 points in the game, including burying three three-pointers, and snared four steals. His backcourt mate, Brandon Triche, added 14 points. C.J. Fair filled the stat sheet, scoring 11 points, grabbing a team-high nine rebounds, and amassing two blocked shots and two steals. James Southerland used his long arms to collect three steals and block three shots in the game. Baye Moussa Keita was stellar on defense, as well, finishing with two blocks and two steals.
- Indiana’s offensive performance set season lows in points scored, field goal percentage, and three-point shooting percentage. Syracuse also amassed ten steals and blocked a dozen Indiana shots, the highest mark in each category against the Hoosiers on the season.
- Jim Boeheim now has 51 wins in NCAA Tournament games, tying him with Jim Calhoun for fourth on the all-time list.
- Syracuse will face their last challenge between them and the Final Four on Saturday, when they battle fellow Big East team Marquette in Washington DC. The #3 seed Golden Eagles (26-8) advanced by routing second-seeded Miami on Thursday night, 71-61. The game will start at 4:30pm and be televised by CBS.
- The Orange fell in the regular season matchup between the two squads on February 25 by a 74-71 score. SU, who was led by C.J. Fair’s 20 points in the game, had an 11-point first half lead, but could not hold on, in large part due to a parade of Golden Eagles going to the free throw line, where they collected 29 points in the game.
- Marquette also ended Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament in 2011, knocking off the Orange, 66-62, in the third round. That game featured a late controversial backcourt violation call that went against SU.
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