x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Syracuse enjoy shooting out Bulldogs

Wes Johnson scores career-high 31 points to lead Orange to a regional semi-final against Butler.

Wes Johnson, left, and Kris Joseph of Syracuse were instrumental in Syracuse's win over Gonzaga on Sunday.
Wes Johnson, left, and Kris Joseph of Syracuse were instrumental in Syracuse's win over Gonzaga on Sunday.

The Syracuse Orange's players knew a lot of attention would come their way after Kansas were eliminated from the NCAA tournament on Saturday . The top-seeded Orange will need to get used to it, especially after a dominating 87-65 victory on Sunday over the eighth-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West Region second round of the national basketball event.

"That's as well as we played all year," Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse coach, told Mark Few, his counterpart at Gonzaga, during the post-game handshake. Syracuse made 54.7 per cent of their field goals, 48 per cent of their three-pointers and led by 32 points at one stage. It was the most points that Gonzaga had conceded since December 12. "I think there's other games we have played really well against in lower-level competition," said Kris Joseph, the Syracuse sophomore.

"But this was a great game because Gonzaga was a good team. "On defence, we were all in sync. And on offence, we got about five, six passes before we got a shot off. "That's what's going to define our team, and that's what we have to be for the rest of the season." Syracuse advanced to a regional semi-final match-up against Butler in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Boeheim praised Butler after Sunday's win, revealing that he has kept them in the top 10 of his coaches' poll ballot throughout the season.

Syracuse's roster could also be bolstered by the addition of Arinze Onuaku, the centre, who missed his second tournament game on Sunday after picking up a right quadriceps injury. The team still thrived without him, getting a career-high 31 points and 14 rebounds from Wes Johnson, the forward, along with 24 points from Andy Rautins, the senior guard. "When I hit the first shot, I felt I was in a zone," said Johnson, who has averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds in the Orange's two games.

Elsewhere, Korie Lucious made a three-point shot at the buzzer to lift Michigan State past Maryland 85-83. The Midwest region fifth seeds, Michigan State, who lost their starting guard Kalin Lucas to a leg injury, had led by 16 points in the second half over fourth seeds Maryland, but trailed by one with six seconds left before Lucious converted the three-pointer to seal the win. "When Kalin went down we all rallied around him and told him 'With or without you, we got your back and we're going to get this win for you'," Lucious said.

Michigan State will meet Northern Iowa, the ninth seeds, in the next round. In the South, Nolan Smith scored 20 points to help Duke to a 68-53 victory over California. Duke will now face the fourth seed, Purdue, who beat Texas A&M, seeded fifth, 63-61 in overtime. In the day's biggest upset, Wisconsin, the East fourth seeds, were beaten 87-69 by the 12th-seeded Cornell after Louis Dale scored 26 points and Ryan Wittman contributed 24.

Cornell meet the top-seeded Kentucky on Thursday. East second seeds West Virginia defeated the 10th seeds Missouri 68-59 to set up a match against the 11th-seeded Washington Huskies. Jordan Crawford scored 27 points for the West sixth seeds, Xavier, in their 71-68 victory over the third seeds, Pittsburgh. The result will be the perfect fillip for Xavier who will now play the second seeds, Kansas State, in the next round.

* With agencies