Why would anything change in the NCAA Tournament?
Wednesday night, Syracuse mucked up another game, but had just enough to escape with a 60-56 win over Arizona State in a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio. Oshae Brissett was the night’s star, hanging his 13th double-double to give the Orange (22-13) just enough offense to claim the victory.
SU had their way simply by slowing down the game and dragging the Sun Devils 20-13 into a slog. Both teams barely shot 40 percent from the field and Syracuse’s 35 percent mark from deep barely edged ASU’s marksmanship.
The most notable difference on the stat sheet was in free throw shooting. SU, who had shot well for most of the season, made just 13-of-23 foul shots in the game. Arizona State, however, was just 3-of-10 from the so-called charity stripe, including missing all three foul shots they attempted in the second half. In contrast, Syracuse made 9-of-14 in the second half.
The first half was a grind for both teams with the Orange generally holding the advantage. After the Sun Devils claimed an early one-point lead, Tyus Battle kicked the ball out to Frank Howard on the right wing for a swished three. Howard then played the passing lane for a steal and lay-up for an early 7-3 SU advantage less than four minutes into the action. The junior point guard then made it eight straight points for Syracuse with another three for a 10-7 lead.
Battle then took over for his backcourt mate, twice nudging that edge to four points, first on a jumper with the edge of his shoe on the line, then again with a three-point-play after following an Oshae Brissett miss in transition. Brissett swished a left wing three to again make the Syracuse lead four, then, with just over seven minutes left in the half, Battle made it 21-16 in favor of the Orange with a long straightaway three.
Arizona State scored seven of the next eight points to again go on top by a single point. Brissett had the only SU point in that time, but more notably, took a very hard fall and suffered a back bruise. Brissett was fortunate, though, and did not miss any time.
Marek Dolezaj snapped the ASU streak with a simple post up, then Brissett added a pair of foul shots to give Syracuse a three-point edge. Dolezaj would add a flip from just below the right elbow for a 30-28 Orange lead on the last score was of the opening half.
The Sun Devils came out of the locker room on fire, hitting two triples to start an 8-0 run in less than 90 seconds to grab a six-point lead and force a time out from Jim Boeheim.
The break worked, as SU responded with a 7-2 run to get back in the game. Brissett hit a three from just left of center to halve the lead, then added a foul shot. After an ASU score, Battle dropped in a floater, then Dolezaj got a breakaway that he turned into a free throw to bring Syracuse within 38-37 just over six minutes into the second session.
Brissett hit a jumper and a left wing three to keep the Orange close, but Arizona State got a bucket and a three to take the largest lead of the night for either side at 49-42 with just over seven minutes to play.
The Orange were undeterred, running off the game’s next eight points in under two-and-a-half minutes to start a 13-3 run. Howard pulled up for a floater, then Brissett added a foul shot. Battle got bailed out on a drive when Paschal Chukwu dunked his errant shot to bring SU within two. Dolezaj then slipped a pass to a cutting Brissett for a short shot and a foul. Brissett’s foul shot gave Syracuse a 50-49 lead with just over four minutes on the clock.
The Sun Devils bombed in a three to go back in front, but Brissett’s pull-up from the left wing fell to knot the score. Battle then used a slick crossover to get free for a swish beyond the left wing arc for a 55-52 Orange lead with under two minutes to go.
Following an ASU basket with under a minute to go, SU broke the Arizona State press and Battle slid a pass to Chukwu, who was fouled going up. Although he was 0-for-3 from the line, Chukwu swished both free throws to reinstate a three-point Syracuse lead.
The Sun Devils scored to get within a single point with 15.6 seconds on the clock. The Orange inbound pass found Chukwu, who was fouled before he could get rid of the ball with 14.7 seconds to go. The center made the front end to double the lead, but his second shot missed and ASU controlled the board.
Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II got the ball in the left corner, and Dolezaj came flying out on a close out. Evans shot faked and took a dribble to his right, then went up for three. The shot went off the heel of the rim and the ball was batted around, but Howard corralled the loose ball for SU and was fouled with four-tenths of a second remaining.
Howard canned the first free throw to make it 59-56 and ASU called a time out. The junior guard made that stoppage meaningless, swishing the second foul shot.
Oshae Brissett posted game highs of 23 points and 12 rebounds, scoring 15 points in the second half. Tyus Battle added 15 points, ten of them in the first half. Frank Howard chipped in with a dozen points and three steals.
Kodi Justice topped Arizona State with 15 points, including 11 in the second half. Shannon Evans II had 14 points, posting 11 in the first half. Tra Holder chipped in with 11 points while Mickey Mitchell added ten.
Syracuse will now travel just over 200 miles north up Interstate 75 to Detroit to face the sixth-seed in the Midwest regional, TCU. The Horned Frogs, who finished the season at 21-11, are coached by Jamie Dixon, who matched wits with Jim Boeheim for 13 years as the head coach at Pittsburgh. SU has won all four meetings between the two schools, the most recent being an 80-64 victory in December 2005.
As a team, Texas Christian shot 40 percent from three-point range on the season and eight of the nine players in their regular rotation on the season made at least 17 three-pointers. Seven of those players averaged over eight points per game, led by Vladimir Brodziansky’s 15.1 points per contest. Desmond Bane (58) and Kouat Noi (57) led the Horned Frogs in triples made, both shooting aver 42 percent from deep.
Tip-off between the Orange and the Horned Frogs is scheduled for approximately 9:40pm Eastern on Friday on CBS.