In their first round NCAA Tournament matchup with San Diego State Friday night, Syracuse ripped off the last 18 points of the first half and coasted to a 78-62 victory. The run staked the #11-seed Orange (17-9) to a 32-18 halftime lead and they were never threatened after that, as the sixth-seeded Aztecs (23-5) never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
SU rode the hot hand of Buddy Boeheim and their resurgent 2-3 zone defense to the win. After scoring 59 points and being named to the All-ACC Tournament team in just two games last week, Boeheim kept things rolling by blistering the nets for 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including 7-of-10 from three-point range. Syracuse set a school record for three-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game with 15.
The Orange defense stifled San Diego State until the game was virtually over. SDSU made six of their last seven shots from the field, including four three-pointers. That lifted their shooting percentages in the game to 35.8 percent overall and 27.5 percent from three-point range. SU more than held their own in the paint, rejecting eight Aztec shots.
Buddy Boeheim’s offensive outburst for Syracuse started almost at the opening tip. Marek Dolezaj opened the scoring with a three-point-play, then Boeheim scored the next 16 Orange points, blistering the nets by hitting 6-of-8 shots from the field, including 3-of-4 from deep.
The Aztecs had the first run of the game, riding three treys for a 9-2 burst and a 15-10 lead before the game was nine minutes old. Boeheim stopped the run by hitting a deep three while being fouled. The four-point-play sliced the gap to one, but San Diego State answered with a three-point play to go up with 9:41 left in the first half, 18-14.
That would be the last point of the half for SDSU, as they missed their final dozen shots of the session. Syracuse did not follow suit, running off 18 points to take a comfortable lead.
Boeheim started the dominance with a triple, then added a pull-up jumper outside the right elbow for a 19-18 Orange lead. Neither team scored for nearly four minutes until Robert Braswell connected on a three from the left corner off a nice pass from Joe Girard III.
Girard then piled up the last ten points before halftime. The sophomore guard swished a three from right of center, then connected on another triple from the right break, this time while being fouled. Girard’s charity shot pushed the lead to 11 with 2:55 left in the half. Not done with that, Girard added a three from the left corner to close the half, giving SU a 32-18 advantage at halftime.
Dolezaj made a short jumper in the paint to open the second half, running the streak to 20 straight points and nudging the lead to 16. San Diego State chipped away at that lead, drawing within 40-29 less than five minutes into the second half.
Syracuse dropped the hammer, ripping off a 16-1 run to blow the game open. Boeheim splashed two threes from the left side, then Kadary Richmond added a jumper below the left elbow. An Aztec free throw stopped the bleeding, but Jesse Edwards rattled home a short turnaround jumper in the paint to get the Orange back on track. Richmond and Braswell each added a triple from the left side, building a 56-30 SU lead and forcing a San Diego State time out with 9:23 remaining.
Boeheim’s seventh triple of the night gave Syracuse their biggest lead of the night at 62-35 with under six-and-a-half minutes to play. With the game out of control, the Aztecs finally found their shooting stroke, connecting on seven threes in the remaining time, but never getting closer than the 16-point final margin.
Boeheim’s 30-point night was backed by a pair of double-digit efforts from his teammates. Joe Girard III hit three triples as he finished with a dozen points, as well as team highs of six rebounds and seven assists. Marek Dolezaj chipped in with 11 points. Robert Braswell (nine) and Kadary Richmond (eight) combined for 17 points off the bench, as both players made a pair of treys.
Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel paced San Diego State with 17 points apiece, but both struggled most of the night. Mitchell had two first half points, shooting just 1-for-9 in the session, and finished with the same mark behind the arc overall while Schakel rallied to finish 5-for-13 on three-pointers for most of his output. Trey Pulliam added eight points, but no other Aztec had more than five.
The Orange advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face #3-seed West Virginia. The Mountaineers (19-9) advanced by defeating Morehead State in their first round matchup, 84-67. Miles McBride torched the Eagles, finishing with 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting, while Jalen Bridges (15), Sean McNeil (13), and Derek Culver (12) all joined him in double figures. The win gave head coach Bob Huggins his 900th career victory.
McBride led the Mountaineers in the regular season with 15.4 points, 4.7 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Culver was right behind him in scoring at 14.6 points per outing and also snared 9.8 rebounds a game. Taz Sherman (13.6 points per game, 45 three-pointers) and McNeil (11.8 points per game, 61 triples) also averaged double figures during the campaign for West Virginia.
SU and West Virginia, former conference rivals in the Big East, will face off on Sunday in second round action. Game time and television network are currently to be determined.