Boeheim pours in 30, No. 11 seed Orange rout Aztecs 78-62

Big Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – MARCH 19: Buddy Boeheim #35 of the Syracuse Orange reacts during the second half against the San Diego State Aztecs in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 19, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The decades-old zone defense of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim claimed another frustrated victim Friday night.

One of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, too.

The No. 11 seed Orange held sixth-seeded San Diego State without a field goal for nearly a quarter of the game, sweet-shooting Buddy Boeheim hit seven 3-pointers and finished with 30 points, and Syracuse cruised to a 78-62 victory inside Hinkle Fieldhouse and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Boeheim finished 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and 11 of 15 from the field, and Marek Dolezaj added 11 points, as Syracuse (17-9) advanced to play third-seeded West Virginia or No. 14 seed Morehead State for a spot in the Sweet 16.

The Orange were trailing 18-14 midway through the first half when they clamped down on defense, holding San Diego State (23-5) without a field goal the rest of the half. And when the Aztecs threatened to trim their deficit to less than 10 early in the second half, the son of the longtime Syracuse coach was there to provide an answer.

Boeheim hit three quick 3-pointers, one of them curling off a screen and falling away, to put the game out of reach.

Jordan Schakel had 17 points for the Aztecs, but the nation’s third-best 3-point shooter was just 5 of 13 from beyond the arc. Leading scorer Matt Mitchell also had 17 points on 8-of-19 shooting for the Mountain West champs.

San Diego State made it clear from the moment it jacked up three 3-pointers on its first couple trips down the floor that the plan was to break Syracuse’s decades-old 2-3 zone by shooting right over top of it.

Problem is the Aztecs didn’t make many.

Beginning with Boeheim’s own 3-pointer with 9:17 left, the Aztecs never scored again in the first half. They missed their final 10 attempts from beyond the arc, finished 3 of 20 from the 3-point line in the first half, and even missed the front end of a one-and-one with a few seconds left before the break.

Boeheim nearly outscored San Diego State by himself. He had 16 points as Syracuse built a 32-18 halftime lead. It was the fewest points coach Brian Dutcher’s high-scoring, perimeter-oriented Aztecs had scored in a half all season.

Mitchell, the Mountain West player of the year, missed all five of his 3-point tries and was 1 of 9 from the field.

Schakel finally got a 3-pointer to go right out of halftime, giving the few San Diego State fans in the crowd a long-awaited reason to cheer. But the Aztecs promptly went into another long slump, and “Buddy Buckets” and the rest of Syracuse’s red-hot shooters continued to bury their own 3s, building a 56-30 lead before coasting to the finish.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse kept its late-season momentum going Friday night. The Orange had won three of their last four games, beating North Carolina and Clemson, and took Virginia to the wire in a buzzer-beating loss in the ACC Tournament.

San Diego State hoped to make a deep run after its loaded 30-2 team last season missed out on a chance to play in the tournament. But the Aztecs looked nothing like the team that brought a 14-game win streak to Indianapolis, winning them by an average margin of 18.4 points, failing to break the Syracuse zone and wilting on the defensive end.

UP NEXT

The Orange will play the Mountaineers or Eagles on Sunday. Syracuse is 28-16 against West Virginia, its old Big East rival, and 3-0 against Morehead State with a win over the Eagles in the first round of the 1983 tournament.

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