For the fourth time this tournament, Syracuse used a suffocating, overwhelming, impossible-to-figure-out defense to earn a victory. After losing by three points at Marquette back on Feb. 25, the Orange exacted revenge on their Big East rival, 55-39, to earn a trip to the Final Four.
The Golden Eagles found zero space to operate against the Orange, shooting 22.6 percent from the field and 3-of-25 from long range in the frustrating loss.
Jim Boeheim's squad won on the whims of its staggeringly efficient defense, but C.J. Fair and James Southerland led the way offensively with 29 combined points, while superstar point guard Michael Carter-Williams added 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
Both teams made it to the Elite Eight on the strength of their defense, and both proved it in the first 20 minutes.
Syracuse's long, rangy 2-3 zone had Marquette completely baffled, and the Orange jumped out to a 21-10 lead after 15 physical minutes.
But Davante Gardner kept things interesting.
The junior forward found the soft spot in the middle of the zone, knocking down jump shots and making the right passes to help the Golden Eagles cut the halftime lead to 24-18.
Little did we know, however, Syracuse wouldn't need much more offensive production to hold off Buzz Williams' squad.
The Orange went through spurts where they struggled to score against Marquette's physicality , but since their defense had the ice-cold-shooting Marquette unable to do anything, it didn't matter.
With the convincing win, Boeheim advances to his fourth Final Four, where the Orange will face the winner of Florida versus Michigan.
Early on, College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster summed up Syracuse's notorious 2-3 zone, which has been effective at a whole new level this tournament:
Rob Dauster @RobDauster
Man, this Syracuse zone is just such a nightmare to try and play against right now. So long, so active.3/30/2013, 8:46:43 PM
And, yeah, "new level" might not even do it justice. With six minutes to go in the first half, CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello gave us this update on Marquette's confused offense:
Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello
Marquette: 11 missed shots, seven turnovers, seven points.3/30/2013, 9:03:11 PM
However, Davante Gardner took over in the middle of that zone, instantly bringing the Golden Eagles back into the game and inspiring a necessary poke at Cody Zeller—who just got blocked again—from Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore:
CJ Moore @CJMooreBR
Devante Gardner = The Anti-Zeller3/30/2013, 9:14:19 PM
Of course, not everyone was exactly thrilled with the defensive battle going on. The "Not Bill Walton" parody account came through with this tweet, which sounded a lot like the real Bill Walton:
Not Bill Walton @NotBillWalton
Syracuse & Marquette's putrid offensive execution is making everyone wish the Big East disbands now instead of next month. #iamappalled3/30/2013, 10:13:14 PM
But, hey, as Dauster pointed out, maybe Marquette should feel proud of doing something that few others have done this season:
Rob Dauster @RobDauster
Marquette is shooting 22.9% from the floor and is 2-22 from three. That's hard to do.3/30/2013, 10:27:16 PM
Finally, ESPN Stats & Info summed it up with a historical look:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Marquette: 39 points is tied for the fewest in an Elite 8 game (San Francisco, 1973 vs UCLA)3/30/2013, 10:36:43 PM
Link to Printable PDF
Link to Live Bracket
Follow all the exciting NCAA tournament action with March Madness Live.