The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team survived and advanced over the West Virginia Mountaineers, holding on for a 75-72 win in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange led by as many as 14, but held on late to get Jim Boeheim to his 20th Sweet 16 appearance.
Out of the gate, Buddy Boeheim picked up where he left off by knocking down his first triple on the right wing off of a brush screen from Quincy Guerrier. Syracuse jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead after Joe Girard followed up Boeheim’s triple with one of his own.
The Orange continued its hot shooting by starting 4-4 from beyond the arc as Alan Griffin hit a triple and Quincy Guerrier knocked one down as well. West Virginia struggled to navigate the 2-3 zone at first, shooting 4-13 from the floor to go along with five turnovers at the second media timeout. Syracuse led 19-10 at that juncture.
The Syracuse offense cooled off midway through the second half as Boeheim’s (and others) shots came up short, but the defense allowed the Orange to keep the Mountaineers at bay, but only for so long. Syracuse led by as many as 14, but a Sean McNeil triple got West Virginia to within 11 at the under four minute media timeout.
West Virginia was able to turn the tide back in its favor by closing the half on a 13-5 run. A Robert Braswell tip-in and a deep Girard bomb preserved Syracuse’s lead.
Still, McNeil made another triple just before JG3’s bomb and Miles McBride responded right after with a three ball of his own.
On the penultimate play of the half, Marek Dolezaj picked up his third foul attempting to take a charge, resulting in two made free throws by Emmitt Matthews. Girard had a deep look before the buzzer, but it failed to materialize and Syracuse took a 35-29 at the lead half. West Virginia led the battle of the boards 19-14 but turned it over 11 times to Syracuse’s seven.
Syracuse came out strong following the intermission as Dolezaj knocked down a free throw line jumper and Quincy Guerrier had a strong showing. Guerrier corralled a rebound, knocked down a three and then blocked a shot which led to a wide-open Boeheim triple. The younger Boeheim knocked down two quick ones and Syracuse led 46-35 after the first four minute sequence.
Dolezaj picked up his fourth foul early in the second and Jesse Edwards followed suit, picking up two quick fouls for his fourth. He took an elbow to the face, exited the game with blood on his face and Dolezaj returned in the middle with four fouls. West Virginia went on a 7-0 run during that stretch and cut Syracuse’s lead 46-42.
Buddy Boeheim responded with back-to-back 3s to relieve some pressure on Syracuse, but McNeil found the range once more for West Virginia. Syracuse led 52-47 with 10:47 remaining.
Then, back to back McNeil 3s gave West Virginia a 53-52 lead. Boeheim responded with a layup and Braswell cut backdoor for a layup. Both teams traded leads down the stretch.
Boeheim carried Syracuse in crunch time. Clinging to a two point lead, he nailed a tough pull-up two to get Syracuse a four point lead with 5:31 to play. McBride answered with a three, but Boeheim came right back down and answered with another triple. A Dolezaj follow gave Syracuse a 65-59 lead with 3:41 to go.
Robert Braswell buried a corner triple to boost Syracuse’s lead to nine. Both teams traded buckets, and McNeil yet again buried another triple to get West Virginia back to within six with 54 seconds to play.
West Virginia turned on the press and a Dolezaj turnover allowed a WVU score. The Orange had difficulty inbounding the ball and burned two timeouts on one possession. Richmond was the pressure release Syracuse needed as he advanced the ball up the sideline and broke the press. The ball ended up in the hands of Boeheim, who was fouled and went 2-2 in a one-and-one to give Syracuse a six point lead.
West Virginia scored to bring the score to 74-70 with 14 ticks left. Girard was fouled, missed the front end and Gabe Osabuohien scored inside to get it within two with 4.5 seconds left. Dolezaj threw a risky lob inbounds to Boeheim, who was fouled on the catch. Boeheim made the first free throw, missed the second and West Virginia traveled after the rebound, preserving a 75-72 Syracuse win.
Buddy led the way with 25 points. Guerrier had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Girard finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists while Dolezaj handled his foul trouble to finish with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.