NCAA Sweet 16: Orange Squeezes Past Gonzaga into the Elite Eight

acc syracuseThe No. 10 seed Syracuse used a 9-3 run in the final three minutes of the game to defeat the No. 11 seed Gonzaga 63-30 in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals on Friday night at the United Center. The Orange (22-13) advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2013 season.

Down one in the final minute of the game, a layup by grad student Michael Gbinije put the Orange on top 61-60 with 22 seconds left. With the ball in the hands of the Bulldogs in the final seconds, a huge block by Tyler Lydon and a subsequent Gonzaga foul against him put the Elizaville, N.Y. native at the free throw line with two seconds left. The freshman sunk both free throws to seal a 63-60 victory, as the Bulldogs attempted one final shot from across the court.

The Orange overcame an 11-point deficit in the middle of the first half to take its first lead of the game 17 seconds into the second half off of a layup by Trevor Cooney.

Gbinije finished the evening with 20 points, while fellow grad student Cooney added 15 points. Junior Tyler Roberson grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds and added nine points to the mix.

Lydon matched his season-high six blocks in the win, marking the second game in a row the freshman has tallied six blocks. Fellow freshman Malachi Richardson added 10 points, including a team-high two 3-pointers.

Gonzaga jumped out to a 13-4 lead on an 8-0 run in the opening minutes of the contest, forcing a Syracuse timeout at the 16:14 mark. The Bulldogs maintained a steady lead 11-point lead heading into the last 10 minutes of the half, before a quick 7-0 run brought the Orange within four at the 8:22 mark, 21-17.

A 3-point basket by Richardson capped a 10-2 run that cut the Bulldog lead down to three, 23-20, with just over seven minutes left in the half. After a big dunk by Roberson, a pair of free throws from Cooney with 45 seconds left made it a one-point game heading into the locker rooms, 29-28.

A layup from Cooney 17 seconds into the second half gave the Orange its first lead of the game, as Syracuse continued on an 11-0 run started at the end of the first half to create a five-point lead at the 17:22 mark, 34-29.

A Gonzaga three knotted it up at 34 with 15:30 left to play, as the Bulldogs proceeded to take the lead back at the 13:18 mark with an old-fashioned 3-point play by Kyle Wiltjer, 39-36. The Orange stayed right with them, stealing the lead back approaching the 10-minute mark with a jumper by Gbinije, 44-43.

The Bulldogs climbed to a seven-point lead following a 10-2 run at the 7:48 mark, 53-46, triggering an Orange timeout. Cooney’s first three of the game with 6:18 left to play cut the Gonzaga lead down to six, 57-51. Another 3-point bucket by Richardson made it a one possession game at the 3:25 mark, 57-54.

A tip-in by freshman Tyler Lydon brought the Orange within one point with 2:18 left to play, 59-58. Down one with 1:28, the Orange remained within one of the Bulldogs after a free throw by Roberson, 60-59.

Syracuse takes on No. 1 seeded Virginia on Sunday in the Midwest Regional Finals for a chance to a trip to the Final Four.