WASHINGTON — It took winning a national title for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to get over a late-shot loss to Indiana the last time the schools played in the NCAA tournament.
This meeting, 26 years later, was never close enough to come down to the final seconds, thanks mostly to Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone defence. Now he has the Orange one victory from getting back to the Final Four.
Limiting Indiana to its lowest output of the season while forcing 19 turnovers and blocking 10 shots, fourth-seeded Syracuse used Michael Carter-Williams’ 24 points to upset the No. 1 seed Hoosiers 61-50 Thursday night and reach the East Regional final.
“Our perimeter defence was tremendous,” Boeheim said. “This is one of our best defensive teams ever. They play it well.”
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 for 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 title.
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.
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. Boeheim 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 defence, 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 per cent of its shots.
The Orange held Indiana to 33 per cent 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 5 1/2 minutes in and his team still without a field goal, Crean called a timeout while trailing 11-3. By then, the Hoosiers 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, taking it all in with his arms crossed over his midsection or with his chin resting on his right fist. He seemed something like an interested observer rather than active participant in the proceedings.
Sure must have liked what he saw, though.
The Hoosiers needed more than 10 minutes of action to record their second field goal, and they didn’t crack double figures in points until Zeller’s tip-in with 14 minutes elapsed made it 22-11.
Even with no one guarding them, the Hoosiers couldn’t put the ball in the basket, failing to make their free throws consistently. They started 3 for 8, and Zeller and Oladipo each had an 0-for-2 trip to the line in the first half.
It all helped Syracuse build an 18-point edge, at 29-11 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half, on C.J. Fair’s inside basket. Fair finished with 11 points, while Brandon Triche — whose uncle, Howard, was on the 1987 team that lost to Indiana — scored 14.
Christian Watford finally made Indiana’s first 3 — on the team’s seventh attempt from beyond the arc — with 1 1/2 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.