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Syracuse Suffocates Marquette 55-39

There’s no sugarcoating it: this was one of the ugliest basketball games you’ll likely ever see. However, Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone defense was brutally effective and utterly took away what little offense Marquette could muster. The Golden Eagles weren’t a good shooting team anyway, but on a night when the Syracuse Orange defense was playing at its highest level all season, they couldn’t get any effective offense going.

“They cover ground really good. You’ve got to get the ball in the middle, you’ve got to play inside out, you’ve got to get to the free-throw line and wear them down with the 3-pointer when you can,” Marquette’s Vander Blue said. “They’re really good at what they do in that zone.”

Marquette made only 12 of 53 field goals in the game, a putrid 23 percent shooting night. It can’t be overstated: the Golden Eagles had a historically bad shooting night. Their 39 points was the lowest in an NCAA regional contest since the shot clock was introduced in 1986. Marquette turned the ball over more times (14) than it scored (12). They made only four of 36 shots outside of the paint. Of course, Syracuse wasn’t much better, converting only 38 percent of their field goals, but with defense that suffocating they didn’t need to do anything else to scrape together a victory.

“We couldn’t get one to drop in from up close,” said Marquette’s Jamil Wilson. “We couldn’t get one to drop in from outside.”

Syracuse accomplishes its defensive dominance with long-armed players who can cut off angles, clog passing lanes and pressure opponents into making foolish decisions. Marquette fell perfectly into their zone trap on Sunday. They had neither the athleticism nor the shooting prowess to overcome the Orange’s scheme.

“We got the right personnel for each key position,” C.J. Fair said. “We got big long guards, we got big long forwards that can cover ground and our centers do a good job holding down the inside.”

Here were some of the gambling line trends for both teams before tip-off, courtesy of Maddux Sports:

  • Opening Line: Syracuse -4
  • Current Line: Syracuse -4 1/2
  • Opening Total: 129
  • Current Total: 128
  • Opening Money Line: Syracuse -190 / Marquette +160
  • Current Money Line: Syracuse -200 / Marquette +170

Syracuse will now advance to face either Michigan or Florida, depending on the outcome of their game today. Michigan showed an insane amount of grit in their Friday night win over Kansas, but it remains to be seen if they can get over the hump against Florida, a team built on a strong interior presence. Of Florida and Michigan, the Wolverines would seemingly give the Orange much more trouble than the Gators. Florida is quick and athletic, but Michigan is on another level when it comes to perimeter play. Of course, the Wolverines have a weak interior game, so it remains to be seen if they can even beat Florida.

“A lot of people doubted us, a lot of people thought we were too young, not tough enough. And I think we’ve proved people wrong over the last couple of weeks,” Michigan’s  Trey Burke said. “I think we understood we have what it takes to be a young team that can go far in this tournament. … Being young isn’t an excuse.”

Syracuse fans better hope they don’t have to see Trey Burke and company next weekend in Atlanta. It would be a bad matchup for the Orange, but then again, if they keep playing defense the way they are, matchups don’t even matter.

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