Indianapolis – A spot in the Elite 8 was up for grabs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
Syracuse and Houston. Seed 11 vs. Seed 2.
Cougars seemed to be the tallest seed. They choked Orange on the perimeter and took a 30-20 lead in the locker room at halftime. Topic of the night: Syracuse failed to score. From wherever.
Final tally: Houston 62, Syracuse 46.
This is what happened:
The Houston defense happened. The Cougars play a tight and aggressive D and Syracuse learned the hard way that nothing would be easy.
SU managed a total of six cubes in the first half. SIX. Houston dominated that half defensively, but SU edged UH 7-1 at the free throw line to make it a little close at the break.
Syracuse was 6 of 24 overall in that first half and 1 of 10 from 3-point range. The only Orange player to make a 3 was Quincy Guerrier, and that came early in the game.
As solid as the defense was, Syracuse just couldn’t score. Tried to drive the ball and score or foul. He tried to fire jump shots. Nothing came in.
All the driving meant a lot to be on your feet and keeping an eye on everyone else except the ball handler. At times, the Orange reached the basket but did not finish or had an altered or blocked shot. Houston was a tough, physical and annoying presence on the defensive end. But the SU needed to be stronger on the ball and more assertive on its offensive side.
And the Orange, for the most part, was limited to a single shot.
The 3-point situation for Syracuse was particularly dire. Orange had been making 3s at a rapid pace in the postseason. But not on Saturday night here. SU took 23 shots from the 3-point line and made five of them. That is 22 percent.
Buddy Boeheim fought to get a clean look in the first half. Houston covered him with his 6-foot-5 Dejon Jarreau stopper and Boeheim couldn’t break free from Jarreau’s sticky D.
Boeheim was 1 of 7 overall and 0 of 4 in that first half. Maybe he had a wide open opportunity from the 3-point line, but all other shots were closely contested.
And Jarreau was huge for Houston in that half. He fired four shots and missed all of them. But he also had eight rebounds, six assists, and just smothered Buddy Boeheim.
Boeheim would finish the game with 12 points, but he was 3 of 13 in total and 1 of 9 from the 3-point line. Jarreau was too good, too hard on the ball to defend him.
Jesse Edwards provided some nice minutes for Syracuse in the first half. Edwards, with his 7-foot height and reach, made it difficult for the Cougars to escape corner traps or get anything close to the basket.
The Orange were behind 15-5 when Edwards entered the game. Very soon, SU tied at 20. Edwards and Kadary Richmond were largely responsible for that alteration in the score. Of all the Orange players who entered the game in the first half, Edwards was plus 4, only he and Alan Griffin (plus 1) were in the plus category.
Edwards also entered the game relatively early in the second half. His length was again disruptive for a Houston team that is super tough but not that tall. And it was influential in keeping Syracuse close. When he wasn’t making walls or rebounds, he was generating fouls from Houston.
It’s not like houston leaked on offense. The Cougars also struggled to score. They just didn’t fight as much as Syracuse.
The area, for the most part, did its part. Houston shot 38 percent overall and 27 percent from the 3-point line.
This and that: Things definitely turned around for Syracuse with about four minutes left in the game. Quincy Guerrier appeared to have a layup on a scrambled transition play, but the ball was stolen and then Joe Girard fouled Justin Gorham, who was taking a jump shot near the free throw line. The ball went down and Gorham got a free kick. During that sequence, SU could have cut the lead to six; Instead, he was left behind by 11. … Before the game started, an ovation for “Let’s Go O-range” erupted at Hinkle. The crowd seemed to favor Syracuse slightly, but there was also adequate representation from Houston. People from Houston brought flags and large banners. … Dino Babers was among the Syracuse fans in Hinkle.
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