It wasn’t an aesthetically pleasing game, but #3-seeded Syracuse is heading to the Sweet 16 in their final tournament as a representative of the Big East. The Orangemen never trailed again after a 2-0 deficit, and once they built a double-digit lead, they cruised to victory.
Neither team reached even 40% shooting from the field in this one, but Syracuse got to the free throw line an astounding 41 times, and while they didn’t shoot it well at the stripe (63%), the increased scoring opportunities proved to be important. CJ Fair led four players for Syracuse in double-figures with 18 points (on 6-14 shooting), but the balanced offense stood out for the Orange.
On the Cal side, they got behind the pace early by starting the game with 7 turnovers in the first 7 minutes, falling behind 11-2, and forcing urgency from the early moments. In addition, their leading scorer, Allen Crabbe, struggled mightily to get anything going, and with him going for only 8 points on 9 field-goal attempts, their offense never clicked. Richard Solomon emerged in a big way for the Golden Bears with 20 points and 13 rebounds, however, and they managed to stay within striking distance despite the huge free-throw disparity and weak 3-point shooting.
It was yet another instance where the vaunted Syracuse “2-3 Zone” defense took control of the action, as it forced Cal into forced jump shots repeatedly, and it allowed the ‘Cuse to maintain their lead late by forcing long possessions. Jim Boeheim looked to be using the late-game situations as a teaching moment as well, repeatedly using individual instruction in the final minutes to convey some “time and score” strategy.
With a potential match-up with Indiana looming in Washington DC next week (or Temple, should they pull the upset), Syracuse’s performance didn’t exactly inspire confidence in those that picked them for a deep run. With that said, however, they have a number of uber-talented players (Triche, Southerland, Fair, Carter-Williams, etc.) and if they perform at peak level, their path to the Final Four could be illuminated.
Be sure to stay tuned to FanSided.com and BustedBrackets.com throughout the entire tournament as we keep you up to date with the latest results. Will there be a Cinderella story in 2013? We will have to tune in and see.