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No. 11 Syracuse Advances to Sweet 16 with March Madness Upset over No. 3 WVU

Jenna CiccotelliAnalyst IIMarch 21, 2021

Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim (35), looks to move around San Diego State forward Matt Mitchell (11) during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA men's tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Friday, March 19, 2021. Syracuse won 78-62. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ Mast/Associated Press

Syracuse is moving on thanks to its second upset of the NCAA men's tournament.

The No. 11 Orange defeated third-seeded West Virginia 75-72 on Sunday, days after defeating No. 6 San Diego State.

Buddy Boeheim dropped 25 points, mostly on three-point attempts, for the Orange, who are now 18-9.

For the 19-10 Mountaineers, Sean McNeil's 23 points couldn't overcome the deficit they faced from the opening minutes.

     

Notable Performers

  • Sean McNeil, WVU: 23 PTS (8-15 FG, 7-13 3PT)
  • Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse: 25 PTS (8-17 FG, 6-13 3PT)
  • Joe Girard III, Syracuse: 12 PTS (4-8 3PT), 7 AST, 6 REB
  • Miles McBride, WVU: 11 PTS, 7 AST, 4 REB

     

Syracuse Starts and Finishes from 3

Syracuse is a fine team when it comes to shooting from deep, having entered Sunday with a 34.8 completion percentage. But in the opening minutes against West Virginia, they were on fire from deep.

The Orange broke out strong from the beginning with a 14-5 lead 5:30 in that was built entirely on threes, save for a pair of free throws.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Syracuse is CASHING from three 🔥 Orange have the early lead over No. 3 West Virginia https://t.co/LiDHplpGij

While they came back down to earth later in that first half, their early attempts from beyond the arc helped build a lead over the Mountaineers, who couldn't match their opponents' success. The Orange hit seven of their 16 attempts from deep in the first half to build a lead that reached as high as 14, while WVU was limited to four of just nine shots from behind the arc.

By the end of the first half, the three-point onslaught had calmed, but it was an imperative piece of Syracuse's early success. Joe Girard III led all scorers with 12 points at the break, all of which came from deep.

Girard was quieted in the second half, but Buddy Boeheim came to life when it mattered most. West Virginia managed to pull within two at the midway point of the second half, but Boeheim hit back-to-back threes to deepen the divide.

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Buddy Buckets and the Orange not slowing down in the second half 👌 @Cuse_MBB | #MarchMadness https://t.co/xM6dA7O8Qw

Boeheim hit one of six attempts from the field in the first half but broke open to complete seven of his 10 shots in the second half, which was crucial as the Orange had to work harder to defend their lead.

     

Too Little, Too Late for WVU

The Mountaineers, like so many before them, were in danger of succumbing to Syracuse's signature 2-3 zone defense early in the first half.

Syracuse forced 11 turnovers in the first half, including 10 in the first 15 minutes, though it only scored two points off those turnovers.

BetMGM 🦁 @BetMGM

Interesting here as Syracuse comes out in the 2-3 zone. Never seen that before from Coach Boeheim

Warren Sharp @SharpFootball

changing all my passwords to 2-3-zone cause no one can solve it

But the Mountaineers hit their stride to head to the break on a 13-5 run. Part of that comeback was built on perfect shooting from the line, with six of six free throws made inside the final six minutes of the half, while McNeil and Miles McBride posted threes on back-to-back possessions to encroach on the Orange.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Cuse and WVU are trading logo 3s 😳 https://t.co/n1ZED21JUG

After the break, West Virginia was more aggressive in the paint, forcing the Orange into foul trouble. Jesse Edwards was whistled three times, joining Marek Dolezaj as the players with four fouls before the game made it into its final 10 minutes.

Finally, the Mountaineers got their first lead of the day on a McNeil three with 9:47 left to play, going up 53-52 to cap a 9-0 run over a 1:22 span.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

WEST VIRGINIA TAKES THE LEAD ❗️ https://t.co/Q6Sg1gB8ud

But it couldn't hold as the Orange continued their push with a 10-0 run over a three-minute span to finish the Mountaineers, who ended the day shooting just 37.1 percent from the field compared to 51.9 percent from Syracuse.

     

What's Next?

Syracuse will carry its Cinderella run into a Sweet 16 meeting with the winner of Sunday night's game between No. 2 Houston and No. 10 Rutgers.

Next season, the Mountaineers will welcome in 3-star combo guard Seth Wilson, the fourth-best prospect in the state of Ohio's class of 2021, as well as 6'3" point guard Kobe Johnson, per 247Sports.

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