A 12-minute drought without a field goal. Six made baskets in the 2nd half. Fifteen missed free throws.
Those ugly offensive numbers somehow added up to an NCAA tournament win for Syracuse thanks to a suffocating zone defense that took California and its hometown fans out of the game.
C.J. Fair scored 18 points; James Southerland added 14 and the 4th-seeded Syracuse Orange overcame a horrid offensive performance to beat the 12th-seeded California Golden Bears 66-60 on Saturday night and advance to the round of 16 for the 2nd consecutive year.
”It wasn’t pretty,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim announced. ”Frankly, I don’t think I can describe it. It was about as ugly as I believe it can get.”
Boeheim was talking especially about the closing minutes, but that sentiment could sum up most of the game on the offensive end. Syracuse Orange (28-9) made just 39 percent of its shots and missed 15 of 41 free throws but frustrated Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe and the rest of the Bears with its zone defense to overcome a dismal shooting night.
Richard Solomon scored 22 points for the California (21-12), who were trying to get to the round of 16 for the 1st time in 16 years and just the 3rd time since 1960. They were denied because they couldn’t figure out Syracuse’s defense.
”The sector accomplished what it wanted to,” Coach Mike Montgomery said. ”I was fearful that was going to happen. I knew where the strengths of the zone and what the weaknesses were. I was not sure we had the staff in a day to get done what we wished to get done.”
Boeheim earned his 50th career NCAA contest win as the Orange reached the regional semifinals for the 4th time in 5 years. This could have been one of the ugliest of those wins as Syracuse struggled to make a basket in the 2nd half, depending on strong play on the defensive end and a parade to the foul line. Baseball scores
The teams combined for just 3 made baskets in the 1st 10:50 of the 2nd half and Syracuse went almost 6 minutes without even taking a shot as Cal committed 7 shooting fouls in the opening 6:02. The Syracuse Orange hit 8 of those 14 free throws to extend their lead straight to 42-30, but went 12:13 without a basket from the field.
”We knew we had an advantage, us guards, being able of getting by their guards,” Brandon Triche said. ”So that’s what we wanted to do. I believe in the first 5 minutes or so, we probably created made 6 fouls on their men and got in the bonus very early.”
As frustrated as the Bears and their fans were with the lopsided foul count, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense was even more confounding. Crabbe found no room to get off a shot, with the Syracuse Orange defenders closing swiftly on him even if he caught the ball 25 feet from the basket.
Point guard Justin Cobbs also struggled against the zone and even when Cal got the ball within, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita were there to fend off or alter the shot.