Ten long, and sometimes frustrating, years have passed since Syracuse found itself triumphing on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Now the Orange, fueled by some of the best defense it has ever shown, is back in the Final Four, heading to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome after its conquest of the NCAA East Regional at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
It started in last Thursday night’s round of 16 against top-seeded Indiana. Michael Carter-Williams scored a season-high 24 points and Brandon Triche added 14 points as the Orange pounded the Hoosiers 61-50.
SU dominated the contest from start to finish. The only time the Hoosiers made it competitive was at the onset of the second half, when it generated a 7-0 run that cut SU's lead to 48-42.
From that point on, though, it was all Syracuse as it registered balanced scoring, while its signature 2-3 zone hammered Indiana into submission.
C.J. Fair contributed 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Senior James Southerland, double-teamed most of the game, had only five points, but grabbed seven rebounds.
In the middle, Baye Moussa Keita played a season-high 33 minutes. His defense, combined with that of Triche and Carter-Williams, completely disrupted the flow of the Hoosiers offense as Keita finished with five blocks.
Simply put, the Orange executed a defensive masterpiece, limiting the Hoosiers to its lowest scoring output of the season, forcing 19 turnovers and blocking 10 shots. Indiana, who was ranked third in the country averaging 79.5 points per game was befuddled by the swarming and relentless SU pressure.
Right from the very beginning of the contest, Syracuse jumped out to a 11-3 lead. Indiana had a difficult time establishing any rhythm, missing its first five shots. For a while, the Hoosiers committed more turnovers and fouls than points scored and shot 33 percent for the night.