Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament run came to an end on Saturday night, as they dug a big hole they were never able to get out of, falling to Michigan in the national semifinals, 61-56. The Orange (30-10) fell behind by 11 points twice in the game and were able to get back within a single point in the final minute, but the Wolverines (31-7) made enough free throws to hold on for the win. SU’s defense played fairly well in the game, allowing Michigan to make just under 40 percent of their free throws and forced eight turnovers in the second half, but it was not enough, as no one on their offense could score consistently other than C.J. Fair, who tallied a game-high 22 points.
It took a couple minutes, but the Wolverines found some early success against the Syracuse 2-3 zone and took a 7-2 lead before three-and-a-half minutes were elapsed. The Orange then ramped up their game on both ends, needing just over five minutes to outscore Michigan 12-2. C.J. Fair got rolling, scoring seven points in the stretch as the offense scored on five of six trips for SU, while the defense permitted just one field goal in seven tries and also came up with a turnover.
The Wolverines quickly climbed free from that 14-9 hole as they scored the game’s next six points to go up by one point. A Trevor Cooney triple but Syracuse back up by a 17-15 mark just before the midpoint of the half, but that was merely a speed bump for Michigan, as they rolled up nine more unanswered points to take a 24-17 lead with 6:30 left in the first half. Cooney’s three-pointer was the only shot the Orange made in eight tries as they gave up the lead. SU shaved the margin down to four points, but six consecutive Wolverine points led to their first double-digit lead of the night at 31-21. The two teams traded a pair of scores before the break with Michigan getting a three-point shot for their final tally and a 36-25 intermission lead.
Syracuse clipped four points off the deficit in the first two minutes of the second half, but the Wolverines were able to make them up and led, 43-32, just under five minutes into the second half. The Orange then went on a 9-2 run, led by Fair’s five points, to close the gap to 45-41 with just over 11 minutes on the clock. A Wolverine three ended a scoring drought of 4:31, but the Orange scored on their next two possessions to get within three points with under eight minutes left. The SU defense continued their strong play, holding Michigan without a field goal for over four more minutes, but their offense could not capitalize, as they did not score for over four-and-a half minutes. When Syracuse finally broke through with a dunk by Fair, they were down 53-47 with just over three minutes on the clock. James Southerland threw down an uncontested dunk to get the Orange within four as the clock went under two minutes, but a pair of Michigan free throws put the lead back at six. Michael Carter-Williams was called for an illegal screen on the ensuing SU possession and was forced to the bench with his fifth foul. The Orange got a 7-2 burst to get within a single point and Brandon Triche led the way, knocking down a pair of free throws and a lay-up before setting up a Southerland three that made it a 57-56 game with 41 ticks on the clock. After a Wolverine free throw put them up by two, Brandon Triche drove the lane for SU and was called for a charge, his fifth foul, with 19 seconds remaining. Another Michigan free throw made it 59-56 and the Orange called time to set up a play to try to tie the game. The play was designed to get Southerland a three-point shot, but he was defended well and Cooney was forced to try a short jumper that missed. Michigan secured the rebound and threw a pass to a streaking Wolverine, leading to a dunk and a 61-56 score with two seconds to play, essentially ending the game.
C.J. Fair poured in 22 points to lead all scorers in the game, but often went long stretches without touching the ball on offense. Brandon Triche was the only other SU player in double figures with 11 points and he also had a game-high eight assists in his final collegiate game. No other Orange player had more than five points in the game. Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland had games they will likely want to forget in what was almost definitely the former’s final game in orange, as Carter-Williams is likely to forgo his final two years of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft, and definitely the latter’s last game in orange, as Southerland has completed his eligibility. Carter-Williams finished with only two points on 1-of-6 shooting and two assists while committing five turnovers and fouling out late in the game. Southerland went scoreless for the game’s first 38 minutes and ended up with five points on a 2-for-9 night from the floor. Jerami Grant had a team-high seven points in 17 minutes off the bench.
- Brandon Triche ends his Syracuse career with 1,564 points, good for 16th place in the Orange record book. His 11 points in the game pushed him past both Roosevelt Bouie and Todd Burgan. Triche’s eight assists tied a career high.
- C.J. Fair’s nine field goals and 20 field goal attempts set personal marks. Fair finished in double figures in scoring for the 33rd time on the season and posted 20 or more points for the eighth time.
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