After coming off a 70-51 win over Dayton in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the Syracuse Orange ousted the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 75-50 to advance to the Sweet 16. This marks Syracuse's fifth Sweet 16 appearance in the last eight seasons (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016).
Syracuse got off to a good start behind it's fifth-year senior backcourt. Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney each scored nine points in the first half, including this slam from Gbinije below.
Michael Gbinije with the slam for Syracuse! https://t.co/f8l38JXp8s— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 20, 2016
Syracuse got off to a 12 point advantage in the first half but the Blue Raiders fought back to make it a four point game at the break.
In the second half, Middle Tennessee took the lead on a couple quick threes but Gbinije did as Gbinije has done all season and provided a calming presence in times of uncertainty. He scored seven points in one stretch when the Blue Raiders were making a run to keep it at bay. He finished the night with 23 points, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Tyler Roberson was one rebound shy of his second consecutive double-double. He finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Cooney also chipped in 12 points on four shots from range.
Dajuan Coleman provided solid minutes in the second half. He finished with 8 points and 5 rebounds. Syracuse will need that type of performance from he and Roberson next game as Syracuse will face one of the more talented bigs in the country in Domantas Sabonis.
The real story behind this Sweet 16 run? Syracuse's 2-3 zone has been stout. In its first NCAA Tournament game against Dayton, the Orange held the Flyers to only 32.1 percent shooting from the floor.
Middle Tennessee scored 90 points against Michigan State on Friday; Tonight Syracuse held Middle Tennessee to 50 points on 29.7 (!) percent shooting from the floor. The defense has been key and if the Orange plan to keep winning, you can bet a solid 2-3 zone will be a large part of that.
Syracuse will now move on to play Gonzaga in Chicago for a chance at the Elite Eight. Game time is TBD. Be sure to check the site this week for all of your coverage and also be sure to keep those dancing shoes handy.