A quick take on Syracuse’s 63-60 win against Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 on a late Friday evening:
WHAT HAPPENED: With 21.8 seconds left, Michael Gbinije rebounded his own miss and hit a layup to give Syracuse a 61-60 lead, part of a 9-1 run to close the game. On Gonzaga’s ensuing possession, Trevor Cooney intercepted an errant pass in the corner, and appeared to stay in bounds on the replay, but was ruled out. No problem, though, as Tyler Lydon blocked a potential game-winning shot from Josh Perkins with 1.6 seconds left, and hit a pair of free throws to seal the win. It capped a remarkable comeback for the Orange, which trailed by as much as 57-48 late in the second half.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse had its hands full with the Bulldogs’ two big men, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. The two combined for 42 points and 23 rebounds, part of a +4 rebounding effort for the Zags. The Bulldogs also outshot the Orange 43.6 percent to 36.1 percent, but the difference for SU was on defense and in its aggression. The Orange made a concerted effort to get inside, shooting 16 free throws to the Bulldogs’ six. SU also forced 17 turnovers in continuing its improbable postseason run. It will be interesting to see how the narrative shifts now on Syracuse. Will the Orange be looked at as a worthy Elite 8 team, or will “experts” point to SU only needing to play three mid-majors on its way to the Midwest Regional Championship game?
HERO: Tyler Roberson scored nine points an added 12 rebounds. He was a key part of the go-ahead basket, tipping the ball to Gbinije on his miss to allow his key layup. Gbinije shot 8-23, but led the Orange with 20 points. Lydon finished with six blocks for the second consecutive game.
ZERO: The Bulldogs didn’t get much bench production, with Silas Melson shooting 1-7. For Syracuse, Malachi Richardson was 3-14 from the field, though he did finish with 10 points.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will play for its second final four in three years when it plays Virginia on Sunday in Chicago. The Orange lost 73-65 to the Cavaliers in their only meeting this season on Jan. 24.