WASHINGTON (AP) — An hour after his team finished a dominating defensive performance to close in on the Final Four, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim stood in a hallway and talked on and on about his trademark 2-3 zone.
Proud as can be. And rightly so.
“You have to know what to do against it,” Boeheim said.
Indiana most certainly did not.
Limiting the top-seeded Hoosiers to their lowest output of the season while forcing 19 turnovers and blocking 10 shots, No. 4 seed Syracuse used Michael Carter-Williams’ 24 points to upset Indiana 61-50 Thursday night and reach the East Regional final.
“Our perimeter defense was tremendous,” Boeheim said, his arms crossed across his purple tie, the way he stood for much of the lopsided game. “This is one of our best defensive teams ever. They play it well.”
The last time these two schools faced off in the NCAA tournament, Indiana won on a late shot — and it took winning a national title for Boeheim to get over it. This meeting, 26 years later, was never close enough to come down to the final seconds.
After getting past preseason No. 1 Indiana, Syracuse (29-9) will face No. 3 seed Marquette on Saturday night in an all-Big East matchup, assuring the soon-to-be-reconfigured conference a berth in the Final Four. Boeheim and the Orange haven’t been to the national semifinals since Carmelo Anthony led them to the 2003 championship.
Marquette beat No. 2 seed Miami 71-61 in Thursday’s first game in Washington.
Syracuse, which is leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference this summer, lost at Marquette 74-71 during the Big East regular season on Feb. 25.
“We’re much better when we play teams that don’t know us,” Boeheim said. “Marquette knows us. They know how to play against us, so it will be very difficult.”
Less than a half-minute into Thursday’s game, as Indiana star Victor Oladipo headed to the free-throw line, the arena’s overhead scoreboard showed a replay of “The Shot,” as it’s come to be known — Keith Smart’s baseline jumper in the final seconds that lifted Bob Knight’s Hoosiers past Boeheim’s Orange in the 1987 national title game.
Boeheim said he wasn’t able to put that behind him until 16 years later, when he got his title. He entered Thursday with 50 wins in the tournament, fourth-most in history, and more than 900 victories overall, with so much of that success built on his unusual zone defense, 40 minutes of a puzzle for opponents to try and solve.
Indiana (29-7), like most teams outside the Big East, isn’t used to seeing that sort of thing, and it showed right from the outset. Didn’t matter that Indiana ranked third in the country this season in scoring, putting up 79.5 points per game — and never fewer than 56 — while making 48.6 percent of its shots.
“Not too many teams are used to our zone,” said Brandon Triche, who scored 14 points Thursday and whose uncle, Howard, was on Boeheim’s 1987 squad. “That’s what we play. Other teams that play zone, they (also) play man, they switch up defenses. But our main (thing) is zone. … We’re very long, and we’re very active, and when we’re active like we were today, we’re hard to score on.”
The Orange held Indiana to 33 percent shooting and frustrated the Hoosiers — from the players down to the coach, Tom Crean.
“Let’s face facts. We haven’t seen a zone like that,” Crean said. “They’re very good. They’re where they’re at for a reason.”
Cody Zeller was held to 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Victor Oladipo scored 16 for Indiana, none easily.
“Credit them,” Oladipo said. “They did a great job with their zone. They’re well-coached.”
At one point early on, Crean scanned a sheet of notes, then shoved it into his navy blue suit jacket’s inside pocket.
No help there.
Then, more than 5½ minutes in and his team still without a field goal, Crean called a timeout while trailing 11-3. The Hoosiers already had four turnovers and were in the process of missing their first five shots.
Always moving, Crean called over freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell to give him a talking-to and a slap on the backside. Later, Crean got down on a knee and used a white towel to help dry a wet spot on the floor in front of his team’s sideline. Crean barked “Are you sure?!” at an official after one non-call when Indiana let yet another possession go astray.
Boeheim, in contrast, looked on calmly, occasionally resting his chin on his right fist while seated. He seemed something like an interested observer rather than active participant in the proceedings.
Sure must have liked what he saw, though.
“They never really succeeded in getting the ball in the right places,” Boeheim said about the Hoosiers. “And it’s not that easy, but it can be done. But they didn’t know how to do that.”
Indiana needed more than 10 minutes of action to record its second field goal, and didn’t crack double figures in points until Zeller’s tip-in with 14 minutes elapsed made it 22-11.
Syracuse raced to an 18-point edge, at 29-11 with about 3½ minutes left in the first half, on C.J. Fair’s inside basket.
Christian Watford finally made Indiana’s first 3 — on the team’s seventh attempt from beyond the arc — with 1½ minutes to go in the half, cutting the deficit to 11 and earning a palm slap from Oladipo.
But Syracuse took a 34-22 lead into the locker room.
Oladipo’s 3 made it a six-point game with 14 minutes left and Syracuse ahead 38-32. That’s when Carter-Williams really took over, scoring 10 during a 14-5 run that put the Orange up 52-37 with 9 minutes to go.
Syracuse lost four of five games heading into the Big East tournament, but is on quite a roll now. The Orange have won six of their past seven games — the only defeat was in the conference tournament final against Louisville, when Syracuse blew a big second-half lead.
There was no such collapse against Indiana, thanks mainly to Boeheim’s D.
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