Syracuse basketball bows out in Sweet 16 after improbable run to Omaha
An improbable run to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 has officially come to an end for the Syracuse Orange.
In front of a sold-out crowd at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, the Orange fell short to the Duke Blue Devils, the 2-seed of the Midwest Region, 69-65.
Syracuse made it a competitive affair throughout, even holding the lead for 11 of the first 20 minutes of the opening half.
Led by a variety of alley-oop dunks by Paschal Chukwu and three-pointers from Tyus Battle, the Orange took a 27-24 lead towards the end of the first half.
However, from there, the Orange went flat, allowing the Blue Devils to go on a 10-0 run entering halftime.
Duke led at the break, 34-27.
But in the second half, things changed -- quickly.
The Orange responded with a 7-0 run, tying the game at 34 apiece, forcing Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to remove his suit coat in anger, calling a timeout and barking at his players.
That was the motivation the Blue Devils needed.
From there, Duke never trailed, as Marvin Bagley III (22 points) and Wendell Carter, Jr. (14 points) were a force in the post, combining for 19 total rebounds, 10 of which were of the offensive variety.
Despite Syracuse's foul trouble, the Orange were able to remain close thanks to Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett scoring in bunches down the stretch.
With a five-point deficit with under 90 seconds to play, Brissett knocked down a fadeaway jump shot to make it a one possession game.
The Orange proceeded to foul Gary Trent, Jr., who then missed the next free throw.
Under 10 seconds to play, with the Orange trailing by three points, they had a chance to tie the game -- until Duke alertly fouled Tyus Battle to force two free throws rather than give the Orange an opportunity for a game-tying shot.
Battle proceeded to miss the first, but make the second free throw, cutting the deficit to only two points.
The Orange chose to foul Trent, Jr. once again -- but this time -- he knoced down both free throws to put the game out of reach.
Syracuse's unlikely run to the Sweet 16 had come to an abrupt end, but not without a magnitude of courage unseen by many Syracuse teams Jim Boeheim has had the pleasure of coaching during his 42-year career.
"These guys have had an incredible end of the year," Boeheim said. "I've never been anymore proud of a team for what they've done in these last 10 days. To go play in that first game and be able to get that, then to be able to beat TCU and Michigan State, these guys have a tremendous amount of courage. Nothing phases them. Tonight, things weren't going our way for a long time, but they just kept coming back."
The Orange finish the year 23-14 overall, as they welcome in one of the top recruiting classes in the country, led by 5-star forward Darius Bazley and 4-star guard Jalen Carey, along with former Jamesville-DeWitt sharpshooter, Buddy Boeheim.