Malachi Richardson tied his career high with 23 points, and the No. 10-seeded Syracuse Orange closed out the game on a 29-8 run to upset the No. 1-seeded Virginia Cavaliers, 68-62, on Sunday. They became the fourth double-digit seed, and first No. 10 seed, to reach the Final Four.
The team celebrated its accomplishment via Twitter:
The Orange made the comeback after trailing by as many as 16 points in the second half. With 9:33 left in the game, Virginia led 54-39. Syracuse defied the odds by slicing and dicing one of the best defensive teams in the country with baskets under the hoop, in transition and from behind the three-point line.
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports pointed out how rare a stretch like that against Virginia is:
Richardson has 23 and Syracuse is on a 25-4 run. Virginia looks rattled, and that's something we almost never say— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 28, 2016
Virginia was in the driver's seat after trailing 8-2 early, finishing the first half on a 33-13 run to take a 35-21 lead into the break on the strength of hot three-point shooting, per NCAA March Madness:
Virginia has made 5 threes. Syracuse has made 1.— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 27, 2016
That's the difference so far as the Cavaliers lead, 35-21. pic.twitter.com/XpzgL2kJNa
All five triples came from point guard London Perrantes, who finished with 15 points in the first half.
David Teel of the Daily Press noted the junior apparently likes shooting against the Orange:
London Perrantes 13-for-23 from 3 in his career against Syracuse.— David Teel (@DavidTeelatDP) March 27, 2016
Mike Meltser of SportsRadio 610 in Houston, a Syracuse alumnus, didn't enjoy seeing the guard carve up his team's defense:
I dislike the existence of London Perrantes— Mike Meltser (@MikeMeltser) March 27, 2016
The Orange made a short run early in the second half, cutting the deficit to eight, 45-37, on a Richardson three-pointer with 11:44 to play. ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon then came down on the next possession and swished a three to push the lead back to 11.
The momentum swung back in the Cavaliers' favor, and it looked as though they would be marching on to the Final Four for the first time since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. However, the Orange continued their Cinderella story by shooting lights out in the final 10 minutes of the game, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:
Syracuse has hit 9 of its last 10 shots. Started 12 of 41.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) March 28, 2016
There were no early signs that Syracuse would make any kind of run, as it was shooting only 26.3 percent and 0-of-6 from three-point range at the under-eight-minute timeout in the first half. The Cavaliers weren't much better at 35.7 percent, but they had hit three of seven attempts from downtown.
Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine wasn't impressed with either team:
If you like watching turnovers, put on Virginia-Syracuse.— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) March 27, 2016
Although the teams each had six turnovers at that point, the Cavaliers started to take control of the game. They scored the next four points, eventually extending the run to 19-2 and taking a 21-10 lead after a layup by Darius Thompson. On that particular shot, Thompson appeared to casually flip the ball high above the basket only to see it hit nothing but net for two points.
Palm noted the uncanny play:
Might just be Virginia's day. Thompson just threw up a piece of junk that found the basket— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 27, 2016
Following a basket by Anthony Gill resulting in a 23-14 Virginia lead with 5:06 remaining in the half, the Cavaliers had recorded an assist on all eight of their baskets.
Seth Davis of CBS Sports was impressed with the No. 1 seed:
Virginia is deceptively up tempo. Love to run defense to offense in transition, score real early in the shot clock or real late.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 27, 2016
Although the Cavaliers had the Orange on their heels in the first half, the Orange showed they too could make a crazy play or two. Freshman forward Tyler Lydon nailed a three-pointer while missing his left shoe to keep Syracuse in the game, 30-21.
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports had fun with the sequence, referencing the tournament's signature song:
Tyler Lydon One (Shoe) Shining Moment— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 27, 2016
At the time, it appeared as though that might be the only highlight for the Orange, but they somehow completed the incredible run to move on to Houston. Forde couldn't believe what he had just witnessed:
All credit to Syracuse. I certainly never saw it coming. Neither did you.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 28, 2016
The Orange finished the game shooting just 36.8 percent, but hit the shots that mattered late. Richardson was one of four Syracuse players in double figures. Lydon and Michael Gbinije had 11 each, and Tyler Roberson had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Perrantes led UVA with 18 points, while Brogdon had 12 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
Syracuse is guaranteed to play an ACC foe in Saturday's Final Four, as the No. 1-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 6-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish will battle it out for the final spot in Houston.
While Syracuse has had some great players, including NBA star Carmelo Anthony, guard Trevor Cooney is the only one who can claim multiple Final Four appearances:
It’s not only special for Cooney but for the entire team as well, because the Orange were one of the last teams selected for the tournament. Many didn’t think Syracuse and its 13 losses belonged, but now it certainly is proving it does.
Adam Schein of SiriusXM gave his opinion on head coach Jim Boeheim leading his team to a fifth Final Four:
The Jim Boeheim middle finger tour! It's real and spectacular!! Yes!!!— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) March 28, 2016
Boeheim wasn’t as colorful as Schein may have hoped during a postgame interview, but he couldn’t seem to praise his team enough, per ESPN.com.
"It was a whole team effort and these guys really deserve it," Boeheim said. "We beat a great basketball team. I've never been prouder in all my 40 years as coach of a basketball team as I am of this team tonight."
Richardson talked about his career effort following the game, per ESPN.com.
"I started slow, I had a couple of bad turnovers and Coach got on me at halftime," Richardson said. "I knew I had to pick it up for my teammates. We were down, and I just wanted to come back and we did."
Rece Davis of ESPN shared a somber statistic for UVA head coach Tony Bennett and his team:
UVA was 68-0 with a double-digit halftime lead under Tony Bennett.— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) March 28, 2016
The head coach was understandably down following the game, but he put the loss into perspective with what he called an "old church hymn," per Amy Lawrence of CBS Sports Radio: "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning."