All the talk leading up to the Indiana-Syracuse match in the Sweet 16 centered around Syracuse’s dynamic 2-3 zone defense. Now you know why.
Indiana was stifled throughout Thursday night’s game by the long-armed Orange’s defensive athleticism, delivering a 61-50 death blow to the Hoosiers’ national championship hopes.
"Our perimeter defense was tremendous," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "This is one of our best defensive teams ever. They play it well.”
Indiana (29-7) was the top seed in the East Region going into the tournament. Syracuse (29-9) was ranked fourth. It was the first time the teams had met since 1987, when Indiana won the national championship with a final shot.
This time, Indiana turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and trailed by double figures for most of the game. The Hoosiers got within six points ealry in the second half but couldn’t sustain the surge as Syracuse regained its composure and dominance.
The Hoosiers shot poorly -- 34 percent from the field (16-of-47), 20 percent from beyond the three-point circle (3-of-15) and 63 percent from the free throw line (15-of-24).
"Let’s face facts. We haven’t seen a zone like that," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "They’re very good. They’re where they’re at for a reason."
One other big Syracuse reason was forward Michael Carter-Williams. He had a career and game high 24 points (three three-pointers) in addition to 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 1 blocked shot.
His performance helped his parents, who were seated in Section 112 of the Verizon Center, take their minds off the fire that destroyed the family home in Hamilton, Mass., last week during the second round of the NCAA tournament.
A nagging question for the Hoosiers at the start of the season was whether guards Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls could play together in the same backcourt. The answer was yes for most of the time, but both guards struggled against Syracuse’s swarming defense.
Ferrell committed four first-half turnovers and found himself on the bench to start the second half. Neither he nor Hulls scored a single point.
Victor Oladipo led Indiana with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Star center Cody Zeller, who was muscled and frustrated by the Syracuse defense, had only 11 points and nine rebounds.
"Credit them," Oladipo said. ‘’They’re well-coached."