It wasn’t a pretty win, but Ohio State will take one over No. 1 ranked Syracuse any way they can get it.
Syracuse came into the game having survived a first round meltdown to UNC-Asheville that almost gave them the distinction of being the first No. 1 seed upset by a No. 16 in the history of the NCAA tournament. They then went on to barely survive a series of buzzer beaters against Wisconsin that could have ended their hopes. Yet, in the end the Orange always managed to find a way to come out on top, until today.
The most notable early game development was Jared Sullinger picking up his second foul early in the first half and spending most of the half on the bench. This was a golden opportunity for Syracuse to build up a lead.
“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Boeheim said. “You know when he comes back in he’s going to be difficult.
Boeheim was right. The two teams went into half-time tied 29-29, but Ohio State had to be feeling like they’d just dodged a bullet. In the second half Sullinger went off, racking up 19 points, seven rebounds, one block, and one steal. His impact on the Buckeye offense was immediate and helped them create distance from Syracuse, building a 46-36 lead.
It needs to be said though that the flow of the game was horrible. The referee’s fingerprints were all over this match in a way that is generally a negative for any sporting event. To say this was a tightly officiated game is like saying Eminem has some mild anger management issues. Syracuse was called for 29 fouls – most in more than three years. Boeheim picked up a technical foul in the first half and came close to picking up a second more than once in the second half as the Syracuse 2-3 defense continued to get lit up by the refs at every turn.
Guard Scoop Jardine said after the game, “We’re not going to blame it on the refs” and quite frankly Syracuse shouldn’t. Let’s remember, it was Ohio State that was without their best player almost the entire first half due to foul trouble.
Syracuse had their changes even in the second half as Brandon Triche went for 15 points, going 2-3 from 3-point range. It was Syracuse that actually had the long ball advantage shooting 38% from beyond the arc to Ohio State’s 30%, but Ohio State was simply too strong offensively. They picked apart the Syracuse 2-3 zone with solid interior passing and good shot selection.
Next up for the Buckeyes is the winner of the UNC vs. Kansas game.
No. 2 Ohio St 77
No. 1 Syracuse 70
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