Jim Boeheim recorded career win No. 799, 42 in the NCAA tournament, as Syracuse dominated Arizona State to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in five years.
The Orange trailed for only 34 seconds the entire game. From 18:19-17:45 of the first half Arizona State led 5-4. After the Orange pulled ahead 7-5, they never looked back.
The Sun Devils pulled within four points, 61-57, with 6:38 remaining in the game, but with the Syracuse season on the verge of slipping away, Johnny Flynn found Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf for a series of threes that saved the Orange’s season.
Arizona State began to focus solely on Flynn, who scored only 11 points on the day, and the Orange guard exploited the Sun Devils perfectly.
"All three of us were just patient and we took what was open," Devendorf said. "When we do that, good things happen."
Good things have been happening for the Orange since the Big East Tournament.
After dismissing UConn in a six-overtime epic, the Orange ran all the way to the Big East Tourney Finals where they fell to Louisville.
The Orange received a No. 3 seed in the 2009 NCAA Tourney, and have been playing like a team destined for the Final Four.
Devendorf had a game high 21 points and hit two clutch three-pointers less than a minute apart to help close out the Sun Devils in the waning moments of the second half.
Andy Rautins contributed 17 points, as five Syracuse players recorded double figures. The Orange shot 55.3 percent (26-47) from the field, and 45 percent (9-20) from beyond the three-point arc. Syracuse also hit 17-21 free throws.
Syracuse out-rebounded the Sun Devils 30-23, and played suffocating defense for most of the afternoon.
"They did a great job of covering a lot of ground," Arizona State point guard Derek Glasser said. "It doesn't seem like they're there, and then all of a sudden they've got two guys there. You know, they do a phenomenal job of guarding the paint and covering a lot of ground."
“There's not a lot of openings to be found because they have great length, they have terrific athletes, and they cover ground so well," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "So what may seem momentarily open is quickly closed."
The Sun Devils had two 20-point scorers, but only got 27 points from the rest of their lineup. ASU shot 41 percent (20-49) from the field, and 37 percent (13-35) from beyond the arc. Free-throws hurt the Sun Devils as they hit only 14-22 attempts.
The Orange held the Pac-10 player of the year, James Harden, to only 10 points, all in the second half. Harden was just two for 10 shooting for the Sun Devils.
Twenty of the Sun Devils' 26 first half shots were from beyond the arc. The Orange’s zone defense clogged the lane for most of the afternoon, preventing Arizona State from making any noise in the lane.
Syracuse was just too hot for the Sun Devils all game long.
They will ride a wave of Momentum into their Sweet 16 matchup with Oklahoma, as Jim Boeheim will have his first crack at his 800 careers win.
"We're going to play the team that would be the No. 1 seed in this tournament if it weren't for Griffin getting injured," Boeheim said. "If he hadn't gotten hurt, they'd be the No. 1 seed. That's enough to worry about."
Johnny Flynn, “the best point guard in America,” according to teammate Eric Devendorf, will lead the Orange against an Oklahoma team that has a lot to prove.
It will be a battle of Oklahoma’s strong interior game, led by player of the year candidate Blake Griffin, against the triumvirate of Syracuse’s outstanding guards.
Everything is clicking for the Orange at the right time. The chemistry is there, and if they continue to play hot, like they are now, this team will not only be a tough out for Oklahoma, but for any team left in the tourney.
This was the first victory over the Sun Devils in the history of the Syracuse program, granted they only played each other once before. The Sun Devils beat the Orange in the 1968 Far West Tournament.