Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says he doesn’t remember much about his final regular season Big East game at the Verizon Center. A 61-39 pounding by Georgetown left a bitter taste in the Orange’s mouth, but fueled their victory in the semifinals during the rematch against the Hoyas in the conference tournament.
However, Boeheim and Syracuse stand on the precipice of delivering one last parting shot of their own to the Hoya Nation by advancing to the Final Four on Saturday night, with a victory over Marquette in their building.
A different Orange team playing with poise and a swagger that had been missing for stretches of the Big East season dismantled Indiana 61-50 in the night cap of the East Region semifinals at the Verizon Center.
Syracuse will face Marquette in the East Regional final in a contest, normally reserved for early March, on Saturday, March 30, 4:30 p.m. ET at the Verizon Center.
“We have a Big East game versus Marquette and the last time they beat us at their house,” said senior forward James Southerland. “So we are definitely looking forward to getting some revenge.”
For as much as the B1G Conference was lauded for being the toughest league in America, again the defensive calling card that is a staple of the Big East thwarted another major conference regular season champion. Syracuse put the clamps on the Hoosiers with their lengthy zone defense that left Indiana mystified.
The Hoosiers barely shot 33 percent for the game, making only 16 of their 48 shots. Indiana finished with 19 turnovers and nine assists. They were uncharacteristically inept, making just 3-of-15 from beyond the three-point arch and couldn’t figure out how to penetrate the Syracuse zone. Even with a week to prepare for the trademark Orange defense, there were no answers for the Hoosiers. Syracuse confused Indiana by cutting off the lane and not allowing Yogi Ferrell or Victor Oladipo to get to the basket. Jordan Hulls, who was playing with a shoulder injury, went zero for six from the field which allowed the Orange to remain packed inside the lane.
“Its tough, we don’t see anything like this our conference,” said junior guard Victor Oladipo. “They do a good job of keeping their hands up and being active and things like that.”
Indiana’s big men didn’t fare much better. Cody Zeller made only three of his 11 field goal attempts and wasn’t able to create space for himself in the paint as Syracuse kept three bodies around him all night. Meanwhile, Christian Watford, who was normally the big man in the Hoosiers offense who lured defenses away from the basket with his perimeter scoring, was ineffective also shooting just four of 11 from the field.
However, the night belonged to sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams. Boeheim said that if last year’s team hadn’t been as talented as it was, he would have played more. Carter-Williams came of age with a game high and career high 24 points and was able to dominate at will. In their only meeting with Marquette, Syracuse fell 72-66 in Milwaukee during their difficult stretch in late February. The Orange blew an 11 point lead and were out-rebounded 33-27. However, these are two different teams who meet on Saturday and the clash of styles figures to make a great fight as they officially meet for the final time as Big East rivals.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.