In their first NCAA tournament matchup since the 1987 national championship game, in which Indiana won with Keith Smart’s buzzer-beater, Syracuse upset Indiana, beating the No. 1 seed, 61-50, to advance to the East regional final—and Syracuse did it with a smothering defense. Indiana never saw it coming.
Four days of preparation for Syracuse’s tough 2-3 zone defense did not Help Indiana at all—nothing could have prepared them for what they experienced Thursday night. For most of the night Indiana looked completely lost, missing layups, handing the ball over and throwing some terrible passes. The Hoosiers high-powered offense was shut down. Syracuse’s superior size and strength smothered the Indiana offense from tip-off and never relented; the Hoosiers shot 33 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers.
After the Hoosiers opened with a 3-2 lead, Syracuse went on a 9-0 run, led by its suffocating defense, and never looked back.
Syracuse’s sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams, who said he was confident Syracuse could beat Indiana, dominated the floor and led the way with a career-high 24 points. The guard shot 9 of 19 from the field, made 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc, had six rebounds and four steals. “This is the best he’s played all year,” Syracuse coach Boeheim said. “He was tremendous. He was the difference in the game on offense, clearly.”
Syracuse has a different air about it now. The team’s recent efforts is a sign that the team has come a long way since its woes in late February and early March, when coach Boeheim was ready to call it quits. Now the team is in play to reach their first Final Four since Carmelo Anthony led the Orange to the national championship in 2003. The only thing that stands in their way is No. 3 seed Marquette.
Can Syracuse’s newly found confidence and terrifying defense lead them to the Final Four and beyond?