With Syracuse facing the kind of NCAA tournament history no team wants to make, the top-seeded Orange rallied for a 72-65 victory Thursday in the second round of the East Regional.
Two calls by the officials had the sellout crowd of 18,927 at Consol Energy Center — except for those wearing orange — booing throughout the final minute but it didn’t matter.
Syracuse made it 109-0 for No. 1 seeds against No. 16s since the NCAA went to a field of 64 in 1985.
“I don’t think luck had anything to do with this game today,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “and I think the better team won.”
The Orange were staring at NCAA tournament history. A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed, and they were trailing North Carolina-Asheville with just over six minutes to play.
“We gave it everything we had. We battled the best that we could,” Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. “These guys are great. They deserved a better fate than they had today.”
Syracuse, which won the national championship in 2003, had already made negative history in the tournament, becoming the first No. 2 seed to lose to a 15 when it fell 73-69 to Richmond in 1991.
The Orange managed to avoid adding another black mark by holding Asheville to one field goal over the final minute while they went 6 of 7 from the free throw line.
Syracuse was playing without 7-foot center Fab Melo, who was declared ineligible for academic reasons by the school and will miss the tournament.
“The fact that this game was close had nothing — nothing — to do with the center position,” Boeheim said.
Syracuse (32-2) will play eighth-seeded Kansas State in the third round on Saturday.
The Wildcats beat Southern Mississippi 70-64.
The Bulldogs (24-10), who talked Wednesday about pulling off the upset, were led by J.P. Primm’s 18 points.
They led 34-30 at halftime — the third 16 to do that — but the Orange took the lead for good with 6:17 left on a turnaround jumper by reserve James Southerland, who had 15 points and a season-high eight rebounds.
“James has to continue to make the shots and I think he will,” Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine said. “I’m happy for him because he’s a big part of our offense and today he showed it.”
Southerland, who scored 13 points in the second half, had three of the Orange’s five 3-pointers.
“James came in, gave us a huge lift off the bench,” Boeheim said of the 6-foot-8 junior.
The Bulldogs got within three points three times in the final 1:04 but could get no closer as Syracuse made its free throws and the officials made a couple of controversial calls.
The first call that caused the crowd to react was a lane violation with 1:20 left. Jardine missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but Primm was called for passing the head of the key before Jardine let the shot go. Jardine got to shoot the front end again, made it, and made the second for a 64-58 lead.
“They gave me a second chance to make the shot and I made it,” Jardine said. “I got myself into a rhythm. I made every free throw from there on out because I do what I practice and believed in myself at that time and made the shots for us.”
Primm said: “They showed it on the replay, I think the crowd let him know that it wasn’t the right call. ... Like I said, when it gets crunch time like that, like I say, everyone is human.”
With 35 seconds left and the Orange leading 66-63, the ball appeared to go out of bounds off Syracuse’s Brandon Triche but the officials pointed the other way and gave it to the Orange. Jardine made two free throws a second later.
Coordinator of Officiating John Adams said he would have given the ball to UNC Asheville on the inbounds play.
“The out of bounds is not reviewable and it is not a play we would discuss,” official Ed Corbett told a pool reporter. “I’m not going to comment further because it is a judgment call. It was a clear (lane) violation. The player released early, before the ball hit the rim. We’ve since watched the replay 20 times and it was the right call.”
Boeheim had his own take on the play with Triche.
“First of all, all the noise about the ball going out of bounds, I mean, Triche got pushed. That’s why it went out of bounds,” he said. “Maybe they missed the out of bounds, they missed the foul call. Those things equal out.”
Inexplicably the Orange kept shooting 3-pointers and missing. Despite having a huge height advantage — Asheville’s talllest starter was 6-foot-5, bigger only than the Syracuse guards — the Orange kept taking 3s against the Bulldogs’ 2-3 zone, which isn’t as well known as the one Syracuse has played for decades but was just as effective Thursday.
The height advantage didn’t do much for the Orange as far as rebounding went either as they had 33, one more than the Bulldogs. Then again, Syracuse was outrebounded by its opponents for the season.
“We just played a good 2-3 zone and mixed it up a little bit, playing man-to-man on one possession, zone on the other, just enough to try to keep ‘em off balance,” Biedenbach said
Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters both had 12 points for Syracuse, which played its fourth game this season without Melo, the Big East defensive player of the year who missed three games in January over academic issues. The Orange are 3-1 without him.
“We (would) love to have him, but it’s about us playing the game,” Jardine said. “We got a lot of guys that stepped up today.”
Jaron Lane added 16 points and Jeremy Atkinson had 12 for the Bulldogs, whose leading scorer, Matt Dickey, went 1 for 13 from the field, 1 of 9 from 3. Asheville went 9 of 23 from beyond the arc.
“The excitement of the game was crazy. It was March Madness at its finest,” Dickey said. “It was awesome and we’ll cherish this moment and the opportunity that we had but we’ll always look back at this moment and say we should have won or could have won, but that’s not enough.”
Other No. 1s have trailed a 16 at halftime, the last Kansas, which was behind by two points before going on to beat Holy Cross 70-59 in 2002.
There have been two one-point wins by No. 1s over 16s — Georgetown over Princeton and Oklahoma over East Tennessee State, both in 1989. And there was one two-point game — Purdue over Western Carolina in 1996 — and one that went overtime — Michigan State 75-71 over Murray State in 1990.
Boeheim earned his 46th win in the NCAA tournament, breaking a tie with Bob Knight for seventh on the career list.
KANSAS STATE 70, SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI 64
Rodney McGruder scored 30 points and Jordan Henriquez added 15 points, nine rebounds and six blocks to lead Kansas State over Southern Mississippi, 70-64.
The Wildcats (22-10) advanced past their opening tournament game for the third straight year.
Neil Watson led Southern Miss (25-9) with 16 points, LaShay Page had 15 and Kentucky transfer Darnell Dodson scored all 14 of his points in the second half. But the Golden Eagles let a chance to win their first-ever tournament game slip away in the final minutes.
WISCONSIN 73, MONTANA 49
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ryan Evans scored 18 points and Jordan Taylor added 17 points and six assists for Wisconsin, which ended Montana’s school-record 14-game winning streak.
The Badgers (25-9) improved to 10-1 in NCAA tournament openers under Bo Ryan, the winningest coach in the program’s history.
Wisconsin will face fifth-seeded Vanderbilt in the third round Saturday at the Pit.
VANDERBILT 79, HARVARD 70
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — John Jenkins made all six of his free throws down the stretch and finished with 27 points to help Vanderbilt hold off Harvard in a game billed as “The Brain Bowl.”
Brad Tinsley scored 16 for the Commodores (25-10), who followed last weekend’s stunner over top-ranked Kentucky with a win over a school many consider to be a No. 1 — in the classroom, that is.
GONZAGA 77, WEST VIRGINIA 54
Robert Sacre and Gary Bell Jr. scored 14 points apiece as Gonzaga routed West Virginia.
Kevin Pangos added 13 points and five assists for the seventh-seeded Bulldogs (26-6), who will play Ohio State or Loyola (Md.) in the third round on Saturday.
MARQUETTE 88, BYU 68
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jae Crowder had 25 points and 16 rebounds, Darius Johnson-Odom scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half and Marquette withstood another furious rally by BYU.
Brandon Davies had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Cougars (26-9), who looked for a brief while as if they might have a chance to top their historic comeback in the First Four on Tuesday night. After trailing by as many as 19 in the first half, BYU got within 52-46 with 15:28 left. But the Golden Eagles (28-5) were simply too big and too strong.
MURRAY STATE 58, COLORADO STATE 41
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Isaiah Canaan scored 15 points in Murray State’s return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year wait, and Donte Poole added 13 to lead the Racers past Colorado State.
Canaan mishandled the ball in the closing seconds of a two-point loss to Butler in 2010 as a freshman. He’s the leader of this group now, and Murray State (31-1) expects a long run in this tournament as the mid-major darlings.
LOUISVILLE 69, DAVIDSON 62
PORTLAND, Ore. — Peyton Siva scored 17 points and Louisville finally moved on in the NCAA tournament by beating Davidson.
After getting ousted in their first tournament game the past two seasons, coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals (27-9) advanced to play fifth-seeded New Mexico in the third round.
NEW MEXICO 75, LONG BEACH STATE 68
PORTLAND, Ore. — Kendall Williams scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and bottled up Long Beach State star Casper Ware defensively to help New Mexico hold off the 49ers.
Drew Gordon added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Lobos.
KENTUCKY 81, WESTERN KENTUCKY 66
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Terrence Jones had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Doron Lamb scored 16 and Kentucky began its quest for an eighth national title with a staggering display of athleticism in a victory over Western Kentucky.
On a day when Syracuse nearly became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a 16, the Wildcats (33-2) clearly relished their growing role as favorites.
BAYLOR 68, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 60
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pierre Jackson scored 18 points and Baylor held off South Dakota State to advance to the third round.
The Bears (28-7) fell behind by 12 in the first half before taking a 36-28 halftime lead that they never relinquished. But it was a nail-biter.
VCU 62, WICHITA STATE 59
PORTLAND, Ore. — Bradford Burgess hit a key 3-pointer with 1:33 left and Shaka Smart coached VCU to another tournament surprise, holding off Wichita State.
The Rams (29-6) led by as many as 13 in the second half, but the Shockers closed to 54-53 on Garrett Stutz’s layup with 5:39 left. Troy Daniels hit a 3-pointer for the Rams, and Joe Ragland answered with his own for Wichita State.
IOWA STATE 77, CONNECTICUT 64
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Chris Allen led four Cyclones in double figures with 20 points, and Iowa State scored their final 14 at the free throw line Thursday night to beat Connecticut 77-64.
It’s the first time since UCLA in 1996 that the defending champs have lost in the opening game and only the second time the Huskies have lost their first game of the NCAA tournament. UConn coach Jim Calhoun was already on his feet before the final buzzer, walking to congratulate Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg.
INDIANA 79, NEW MEXICO STATE 66
PORTLAND, Ore. — Jordan Hulls went on a second-half shooting spree and finished with 22 points, and fourth-seeded Indiana rolled to an impressive 79-66 win over New Mexico State in the second round of the South Regional on Thursday night.
Making its return after a four-year tournament absence, the Hoosiers (26-8) picked up their first tournament win since beating Gonzaga in 2007 on a night their main stars — Cody Zeller and Christian Watford — did the heavy lifting in the opening minutes then watched Hulls and others carry the load.
COLORADO 68, UNLV 64
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Freshman reserve Askia Booker scored 16 points Thursday night and 11th-seeded Colorado held off a furious UNLV rally for a 68-64 victory in the South Regional.
CU (24-11) led 49-29 with just under 15 minutes remaining, then sixth-seeded UNLV (26-9) went on a 26-8 run to cut the margin to two at the 4:20 mark.
But UNLV missed its next seven shots and Carlon Brown took a full-court pass for a windmill dunk to help the Buffs gather themselves and win in their first NCAA appearance since 2003.
Austin Dufault finished with 14 points and Andre Roberson had 12 points and 16 rebounds for CU, which plays Baylor on Saturday.
Anthony Marshall had 15 for UNLV, which went 9 for 36 from 3-point range.
OHIO STATE 78, LOYOLA, MD. 59
PITTSBURGH — Deshaun Thomas scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead second-seeded Ohio State to a 78-59 victory over Loyola, Md., on Thursday night in the second round of the East Regional.
Jared Sullinger added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes (28-7), who dominated the smaller Greyhounds inside, finishing with a 49-24 rebound advantage.
Ohio State will play seventh-seeded Gonzaga in the third round on Saturday at the Consol Energy Center. The Bulldogs beat 10th-seeded West Virginia 77-54.
The Buckeyes, playing on the same court top-seeded Syracuse struggled to beat North Carolina-Asheville hours earlier, twice took a 15-point lead in the first half. The Greyhounds got within 42-31 at halftime but the Buckeyes went on to lead by as many as 20 in the second half.
Erik Etherly had 19 points for the Greyhounds (24-9), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions, who were in the tournament for the second time and first since 1994.