Saturday evening, Syracuse clinched their fifth NCAA Tournament Final Four appearance in school history and fourth under head coach Jim Boeheim by completely stifling Big East foe Marquette for with their suffocating defense, winning the East Regional Final, 55-39.
The Orange (30-9) who came into the game as the #4 seed in the East, allowed the third-seeded Golden Eagles to make only 22.6 percent of their field goals in the game and only 18.5 percent of their shots in the second half. While they did not turn in a similar quality performance on the offensive end, SU only turned the ball over six times. They did, however, convert 14 Marquette miscues into 19 points.
The Golden Eagles were the first team on the board in the game, knocking down a three-pointer just over 90 seconds into the action for their only lead of the contest. Syracuse scored the next seven points of the game as part of a 15-4 run to grab a 15-6 lead just under before the midpoint of the opening half.
Four consecutive Orange points later nudged their lead to 19-7 with 6:32 remaining in the half, but Marquette struck back with an 11-2 burst over the next 3:15 of the game to close within three points. SU tightened the screws on defense, pitching a shutout for the remainder of the half while adding on a triple for a 24-18 halftime lead.
Marquette clipped the deficit to four in the opening minutes of the second half, but would never get closer. Syracuse outscored the Golden Eagles by a 12-4 margin over the game’s next seven-and-a-half minutes, permitting only one field goal in that time to grab control at 37-25. A Marquette three broke their cold snap, but the Orange scored four straight points to push their lead to 13.
Four straight free throws brought the Golden Eagles within 41-32 with 7:21 remaining, but SU scored a half dozen unanswered points to stretch their control to 15 points with under five minutes to go. Marquette scored four points to keep their hopes alive, but James Southerland hit a contested, off-balance three-pointer with the shot clock waning for a 50-36 lead with 2:23 to play, drawing a roar from the Syracuse contingent, as they could sense that all but ended the game. They proved to be right, as the Orange scored the next five points to take their greatest lead of the game at 55-36. A meaningless Golden Eagle three later and the SU celebration was on.
James Southerland posted a game-high 16 points, including making three treys. C.J. Fair added 13 points as part of a strong all-around game where he also recorded a pair of blocked shots and three steals. Michael Carter-Williams turned in a strong all-around game, scoring a dozen points and posting game highs of eight rebounds, six assists, and five steals. Brandon Triche chipped in with nine points.
- The victory over Marquette is the 60th NCAA Tournament victory in Syracuse history and came ten years to the day since the last time the Orange advanced to the Final Four when they defeated Oklahoma in 2003.
- In four NCAA Tournament games this year, the Orange defense has allowed their opponents to make 28.9 percent of their field goal attempts and a razor-this 15.4 percent of their three-point shots. SU has allowed 61 field goals and forced 67 turnovers in those four games.
- Michael Carter-Williams was named the East Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player. Carter-Williams also became the single-season leader in steals at Syracuse in the previous game against Indiana, passing Jason Hart and James Thues. He now has 109 thefts on the year.
- The 39 points scored by Marquette is their season low. That figure also marks the lowest NCAA Tournament output for a team seeded third or higher in the NCAA Tournament, as well as the lowest score by a team in a regional final in the shot clock era.
- Syracuse will play on Saturday in the Final Four in Atlanta, when they will take on either Florida (29-7) or Michigan (29-7). Those two teams will do battle on Sunday for the right to play the Orange. The national semifinals will be televised by CBS and game time will be either 6:00pm or approximately 8:30pm. Game time will be determined after both of Sunday’s games are completed.