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Déjà Vu for Syracuse in Second Straight Dominating NCAA Tournament Win

Things looked very familiar in Sunday's victory.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange beat the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 75-50 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. While watching on Sunday evening, you might have noticed some similarities to SU's Friday win over the Dayton Flyers. You're not alone. The two games were nearly mirror images of one another.

Final Scores:

Syracuse 70, Dayton 51

Syracuse 75, Middle Tennessee 50

First Half Margin:

Syracuse, Plus-2 vs. Dayton

Syracuse, Plus-4 vs. Middle Tennessee

Second Half Scoring:

Syracuse 40, Dayton 23

Syracuse 44, Middle Tennessee 23

... and that's just what you see from a quick look at the box scores.

Each contest started differently, sure -- with hot shooting controlling Sunday's game, while Dayton and SU threatened to take basketball back decades on Friday morning. But from there, the games proceeded to their similar conclusions along the same exact line. Tight contests through the early parts of the second half were suddenly, unexpectedly blown wide open between the 15- and 12-minute marks. The Orange, long known for failing to step on throats when they needed to most, then did the unthinkable by putting these games away with minutes to spare. The method in which they did so was the same too.

To beat both teams, Syracuse stopped avoiding its strength (against Dayton and MTSU) -- superior interior offense -- and just started attacking the basket. This drew fouls, disrupted the flow of the game (key, especially vs. the Blue Raiders) and kept the team focused in on high-efficiency shots. While the team only hit 39 percent of its shots from the field against the Flyers, they also hit 87 percent from the free-throw line. Against the Blue Raiders, those figures sort of flipped. Syracuse struggled from the line (13-for-22, but 12-for-15 in the second half), though they also hit 55 percent from the floor.

But the shooting was only the half of it (if even) -- and the easy part to see with the scoring margin increase. What really sparked the difference in both of SU's impressive wins was clamping down on the defensive end and changing the way each team effectively ran their respective offenses. You can't hit threes forever if you hope to beat the 2-3 zone, and Jim Boeheim banks on smaller teams eventually having to go inside. Dayton and Middle Tennessee obliged as each second half wore on, and the result was poor shots, blocks and turnovers.

Middle Tennessee, a top-30 three-point shooting team in the country, went 8-of-24 behind the line. Dayton? They went 6-of-22 from three themselves. When the Blue Raiders finally seemed to give up on threes, they were met with Syracuse's size in the paint, and the results were predictably awful. Tyler Lydon led the way with six blocks, while the rest of the team chipped in another five. The zone forced another 10 turnovers by way of bad passes. Dayton suffered a similar fate with nine.

Despite the Blue Raiders being seen as the team that could quickly snowball into something that catches fire (TM), it was Syracuse -- for the second straight game -- that used defense to completely steamroll and demoralize a team in the second half. If you watched the Orange play defense this regular season, you're probably surprised by this. That's fine. But at least through two games, the suffocating SU zone is once again among the NCAA Tournament's top narratives. That makes sense after notching two of the best consecutive wins the field has to offer. Let's hope it lasts.