SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Syracuse overcame poor shooting and a partisan crowd to earn a return trip to the round of 16.
C.J. Fair scored 18 points, James Southerland added 14 and the fourth-seeded Orange survived a second-half drought of more than 12 minutes without a field goal to beat No. 12 seed California 66-60 on Saturday night in the NCAA tournament.READ MORE: Storm Watch: Officials Hoping To Avoid Repeat Of Ida With Preparations For Nor'easter
Syracuse (28-9) frustrated the Golden Bears with its zone defense to overcome a dismal shooting night when it made just 39 percent of its shots and missed 15 of 41 free throws.
It was enough to send the Orange to Washington, D.C., for the East Regional where they will play Thursday against the winner of Sunday’s game between top-seeded Indiana and Temple.
Richard Solomon scored 22 points for the Golden Bears (21-12), who were trying to make it to the round of 16 for the first time in 16 years and just the third time since 1960.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim earned his 50th career NCAA tournament win as the Orange reached the regional semifinals for the fourth time in five years. This might have been one of the ugliest of those wins as Syracuse struggled to make a basket in the second half, relying on strong play on the defensive end and a parade to the foul line.
The teams combined for just three made baskets in the first 10:50 of the second half and Syracuse went almost six minutes without even taking a shot as Cal committed seven shooting fouls in the opening 6:02. The Orange hit eight of those 14 free throws to extend their lead to 42-30, but went 12:13 without making a basket from the field.
As frustrated as the Bears and their fans were with the lopsided foul count, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense was even more confounding. Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe found no room to get off a shot, with the Syracuse defenders closing quickly on him even when he caught the ball 25 feet from the basket.
Point guard Justin Cobbs also struggled against the zone and even when Cal got the ball inside, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita were there to block or alter the shot.READ MORE: New York City Workers, Supporters March Across Brooklyn Bridge To Protest Approaching Vaccine Mandate
Cal managed to get a 14-point lead cut down to seven with less than five minutes to go but Southerland and Michael Carter-Williams answered with tough shots at the other end to quiet the crowd and keep Syracuse in control.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Crabbe and Tyrone Wallace got the deficit back down to 58-51 with 1:50 to go and Cal stole the inbounds pass, but Crabbe stepped on the sideline to give the Orange the ball back.
Carter-Williams then drew a charge from Cobbs with a minute left and the Orange up seven. Keita’s dunk sealed the victory.
The selection committee did Syracuse no favors, making the Orange the only top-four seed sent cross-country for the opening weekend of the tournament. Making matters worse, this game was played about 50 miles from Cal’s campus in Berkeley, creating a decided home-court edge for the lower-seeded Bears.
The enthusiasm from the sold-out crowd did little to help Cal on the court in the early going as the Bears appeared jittery against Syracuse’s zone defense.
Cal turned the ball over on seven straight possessions early in the game and fell behind 11-2 when Fair hit a 3-pointer following a bad pass from Ricky Kreklow on the other end.
Syracuse had its own problems protecting the ball, committing six early turnovers that kept Cal in the game. The Orange overcame that with their relentless rebounding, getting 12 second-chance points off 10 first-half offensive rebounds, including a layup by Fair that made it 27-15 after Keita missed a dunk.
The Orange led 32-24 at halftime after limiting Crabbe to two shots.MORE NEWS: NYPD Officers Testify As Judicial Inquiry Into 2014 Death Of Eric Garner Gets Underway
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