Little Caesars Arena looked and felt like a Michigan State home game as “Go Green! Go White!” chants boomed before tip-off. The atmosphere was setting the stage for a fun and exciting game. After all, Tom Izzo has made 13 Sweet Sixteen’s, 7 Final Fours, and has 1 National Championship to his name. You would think it would be Sparty’s night, but the Orange of Syracuse would have something to say about that.
The #11 seed Syracuse is led by Jim Boeheim, who much like Izzo has an impressive resume. In his 42 seasons on the bench, he has reached 18 Sweet Sixteen’s, 5 Final Fours, and also has won a national championship. His style of play is to get defensive stops with the length of his 2-3 zone, and it did exactly what it was supposed to do – give Michigan State fits.
It wasn’t until the under-8 minute timeout that Michigan State would find success getting to the middle of the zone. Cassius Winston began to carve up the zone with dribble penetration and found Nick Ward for a slam dunk. Miles Bridges scored 29 points in the first round game vs. Bucknell, but Syracuse’ length would hold him scoreless until the 2:55 mark of the first half.
We are so used to buzzer beaters at the end of games during March, but the one made by Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid at the end of the first half could prove to be the game winner. After a great block by a Syracuse defender, McQuaid caught the deflection and heaved up a prayer to bank in a 3-point shot at the buzzer.
Offensive rebounding kept Michigan State in the game as they found ways to get to the glass vs. the 2-3 zone of Syracuse. However, with 3:32 remaining the Orange took the lead 50-48 after going on a 7-0 run. After a long review by the officials at the monitor, Syracuse would get a stop and score to go up 52-49 with 45 seconds left on the clock.
The score would remain the same until there was 7.8 seconds left after a forced turnover by Michigan State. On the ensuing inbounds play after the timeout, Coach Boeheim would use the strategy of fouling and give two free throws. Matt McQuaid would hit both to bring the score to within 1. A last second shot by Cassius Winston would not fall and Syracuse would win 55-53
Syracuse will travel to Omaha, NE to face ACC foe Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.