Recap: Syracuse vs. Kansas State
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Syracuse nearly made dubious NCAA Tournament history on Thursday with a narrow escape against UNC-Asheville. Two days later, the Orange more resembled the team that held the top ranking for six weeks during the regular season.
Dion Waiters scored 18 points and Scoop Jardine added 16 with eight assists, as Syracuse pulled away in the second half for a 75-59 victory over Kansas State to advance to the East Region semifinals.
James Southerland chipped in 15 points and six rebounds off the bench, while Rakeem Christmas had, perhaps, the best game of his freshman season in the absence of the ineligible Fab Melo. Christmas scored eight points and grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds for the top-seeded Orange (33-2), who were coming off the 72-65 win over 16th-seeded UNC-Asheville on Thursday.
"I think we picked it up on both ends of the floor, especially on the defensive end," said Syracuse's Kris Joseph about the difference between the two games. "We were able to get transition baskets. There was a lot of space on the our offensive end. We got open shots, open looks, we knocked 'em down."
Syracuse reached the regional semifinals for the third time in the last four years and will play fourth seed Wisconsin Thursday in Boston. The Badgers edged Vanderbilt, 60-57, Saturday night.
Jordan Henriquez scored 14 points and pulled down 17 rebounds for Kansas State (22-11), which lost in the round of 32 for the second straight year. The Wildcats were beaten by Wisconsin last spring.
Kansas State's Rodney McGruder battled through a sprained left ankle that he sustained in the first half and followed up his 30-point performance from Thursday against Southern Miss with 15 points on Saturday.
The Wildcats played without second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Jamar Samuels, who sat while the school tried to resolve an eligibility issue. Still, as expected, Kansas State held a 41-32 rebounding advantage, including a 25-9 edge on the offensive boards.
"We give Syracuse credit rather than fault our guys," said Kansas State head coach Frank Martin. "They attacked us. They're not 35-2, or whatever they are, because they kind of fooled people. You know, they're good."
Syracuse carried a 25-24 lead to the second half and it remained tight for the first few minutes until the Orange opened some breathing room with nine straight points. Jardine started it with a three-pointer and two buckets by Christmas followed before Southerland hit a pair of free throws for a 45-34 advantage with 12:52 remaining.
Kansas State clawed to within five thanks to a pair of three-pointers by Angel Rodriguez, the last making it 47-42, but the Orange responded with the next eight. Jardine and Southerland each hit from beyond the arc to extend the margin to 55-42 with just over nine minutes to play.
The lead reached 16, 63-47, on an acrobatic three-point play by Waiters with 5:19 left, but Kansas State followed with six in a row to trim its deficit to 10 with 3:18 on the clock.
That was as close as the Wildcats got, as the Orange hit eight of their 10 free throws over the next two minutes and K-State managed just two layups in that span.
Syracuse finished 23-of-29 from the stripe and also made 6-of-9 three-point tries, including all five attempts from beyond the arc in the second half. The Orange shot 51.1 percent overall and gave Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim his 47th career NCAA Tournament win, tying the legendary John Wooden for fifth on the all-time list.
"The second half, we made shots. We haven't done that lately," Boeheim noted. "Our offense was not good in the first half. We had to pick it up on the offensive end. The difference was Scoop started to get us going, made some shots, made some plays."
Kansas State opened a quick 9-2 edge, but Syracuse regrouped and ripped off 19 of the next 21 points. Joseph ignited it with the first two buckets and a pair of free throws, but Waiters then fueled it with nine points.
Waiters' three-pointer tied it and he followed with a driving layup to put the Orange ahead for the first time at 13-11. His jumper with 8:37 left in the half gave Syracuse a 21-11 cushion.
The lead soon after reached 11, but Kansas State rallied with strong work on the offensive boards. A 9-0 burst pulled the Wildcats within 23-21 with just over four minutes to play in the half. Three of the baskets during the surge came thanks to offensive rebounds.
Syracuse managed only one basket in the last 8 1/2 minutes and took its one- point lead to the intermission. Kansas State made just 23.5 percent of its shots in the opening 20 minutes, including a dismal 1-for-8 performance from three-point range, but grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and held a 28-16 overall advantage on the glass.
"We just didn't hit the shots we normally hit," said McGruder. "We had open looks. We just didn't take advantage of the open looks that we had."Game Notes
Jardine was 3-for-3 from three-point range -- all in the second half...Joseph finished with 11 points in the victory...The Syracuse bench outscored Kansas State's reserves, 33-0...Kansas State shot just 31.3 percent overall and made only 4-of-17 from three-point territory...Rodriguez scored 12 points for the Wildcats...Syracuse, which lost to Oklahoma in the 2009 regional semifinals and Butler in the same round the following year, hasn't been past the Sweet 16 since winning the 2003 title...This was the first matchup between the two schools since the 1975 East Regional final, won by Syracuse, 95-87 in overtime. Kansas State won the only other meeting, 88-68, in 1968.