Men’s basketball team makes tournament chance count, beats Arizona State in First Four
Cuse beats Arizona State in NCAA First Four
DAYTON, Ohio — ‘Cardiac Cuse’ was the case Wednesday night as Syracuse beat Arizona State 60-56 in the NCAA First Four.
As both teams faced media scrutiny regarding whether they deserved to be in the tournament, the teams needed to jump out to a quick start. Syracuse point guard Frank Howard turned the ball over on two of the initial possessions; however this did not worry Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.
“We can’t have that. He knows that,” Boeheim said.
The junior guard made up for it, stealing the ball from ASU guard Shannon Evans II and scoring a layup to grab a 7-3 lead.
Both teams went back and forth trading points between errant three-point attempts and free throws. The Orange defense limited the Arizona State offense to outside looks or inside shots, both of which Syracuse had a sizable height advantage.
“A lot of teams try to beat us from the three-point line. And we know that they can shoot the ball,” Tyus Battle said.
Multiple times during the first half the Sun Devils attempted to draw fouls both offensively and defensively. When the referees called it against Syracuse, the Orange bench erupted in anger. This led to six fouls against them in the first eight minutes.
A Battle three gave the Orange its largest lead of the half at 21-16 with seven minutes remaining in the first until Evans came right back with a three of his own. With the Sun Devils pressing the entire game, the Orange offense needed to rely on other players to create scoring opportunities.
Freshman forward Marek Dolezaj took advantage of a chance and gave the Orange the lead again. The Slovakian scored the final basket of the first half, a jumper off an assist from Howard, to give the Syracuse a 30-28 lead at halftime.
The Sun Devils scorched their way into the second half, with guards Tra Holder and Evans II grabbing a pair of threes. Holder weaved his way through the Syracuse 2-3 zone forcing Boehiem into an early timeout down 36-30 after 90 seconds.
“We were making plays. We were making shots. We were doing, we were just executing our offense,” Arizona State’s Kodi Justice said.
Brissett opened the scoring for the Orange in the second half, connecting on a three off a Dolezaj pass.
Syracuse’s offense struggled for early parts of the second half, relying on tough shots under the basket. During one possession, Battle missed a dunk and a three leading to a Paschal Chukwu rebound. However, the ball was stripped from the center’s hands.
The Sun Devils went on a five-minute scoreless streak, but Syracuse could not capitalize on missed chances by the basket to tie the game at 42. It ended up being costly, as Evans II found Justice for a three. Minutes later, Justice hit another from beyond the arc to increase the lead to 49-42.
“You’ve just got to be able to attack certain areas with the middle, trying to get the ball to the middle. And with that we can kick the ball out and get shots, be able to stay in attack mostly,” Justice said.
Syracuse stormed back, creating its own run. Battle’s short shot landed in the hands of a leaping Chukwu, who slammed it home to make it a one possession game before Brissett hit a jumper and made the free throw.
“We ran something different and it happened to work. We ran the same play four times in a row and scored all four times,” Boeheim said.
Justice came in clutch again for Arizona State, silencing the Syracuse crowd with a dagger from beyond the arc to retake the lead with four minutes to go. Brissett scored inside to tie the game at 52, and Battle crossed Holder over and drained a three to give Syracuse a 55-52 lead.
“He’s made it all year. In end-of-game situations where we’ve needed a shot he’s made the step-back. It’s been good for him,” Boeheim said.
Then again Justice scored inside to make it a one-point game. He then forced Arizona State to foul with under a minute remaining. The final six points all came from the line for Syracuse, who were shooting a mere 44 percent before the final sequence.
Chukwu scored four free throws around a Sun Devil layup. A missed three from Evans II saw the ball land in Howard’s hands, and the junior guard scored a pair to give the Orange a four-point cushion.
“He shoots countless amounts of free throws at practice, Coach (Allen) Griff(in). I see him knock down free throws every day. So I was confident with him up there,” Howard said.
Syracuse has a mere 46 hours until its next game versus Texas Christian University.
“These guys have to expend every bit of energy they have when they play. So it will be a real challenge for us,” Boeheim said.
Syracuse and TCU play Friday night in Detroit.