A quick take on Syracuse’s 66-60 win over California in the third round of the NCAA tournament:
WHAT HAPPENED: California committed seven turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game as Syracuse jumped out to an early 11-2 lead. The Orange would never never relinquish it in a defensive slugfest that SU always had control of, but could never blow open. Though Cal hung around, and even cut it to six with under a minute left, Syracuse made just enough free throws to advance to Washington, DC and the Sweet 16.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse’s zone has been their best asset in the NCAA tournament. Two nights after holding Montana to 34 points, the defense was once again stellar. The Golden Bears shot 39 percent from the field, and were an unsightly 4-21 from downtown and turned the ball over 17 times. Syracuse should’ve had a larger margin of victory, but they were equally as sloppy with the ball (15 turnovers) and had their own troubles at the free throw line, shooting 26-41 from there. The slow-plodding, methodical pace was summed up in this one stat: Zero fast break points—for both teams, combined.
HERO: Like in the Montana game, CJ Fair was featured early, and led Syracuse with 18 points. James Southerland chipped in 14 points and 9 rebounds, but was in foul trouble for most of the second half trying to body Richard Solomon. Speaking of the Cal big man, he led all scorers with 20 points and added 13 rebounds.
ZERO: Allen Crabbe could not have had a worse night. The reigning Pac 12 player of the year had a critical turnover (one of a team-high 5) with 1:44 left when he stepped out of bounds, and was just 3-8 from the field for 8 points. His backcourt mate, Justin Cobbs wasn’t much better, missing all 5 of his 3-point attempts, and finished 2-9 from the field for 5 points (he also had 4 turnovers). Another zero goes to the Golden Bear fans. The overwhemlingly pro-Cal crowd, who had to commute just 45 minutes from Berkeley, was surprisingly not a factor.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will return back to the East Coast to face the winner of Indiana/Temple, which will be played Sunday at 2:45 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio. The game will be on March 28/30 in Washington, DC, with the time TBD.