March 24, 2012
Syracuse no match for Ohio State
By Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency
Sooner or later the absence of standout defensive centre Fab Melo was bound to catch up to Syracuse.
Against low post wrecking ball Jared Sullinger and Ohio State, Melo was badly missed and the Orange bowed out of the NCAA Tournament 77-70 on Saturday night in Boston.
Sullinger overcame first half foul trouble to score 19 points in an ugly game marred by overzealous refereeing.
The teams combined for 62 free throw attempts.
OSU is in the Final Four for the first time since 2007 and will take on the North Carolina-Kansas winner.
Without Melo, Syracuse’s top shot blocker and a big rebounder on a team that doesn’t board well, the Buckeyes were able to assert their will at times.
No-one moreso than big Sullinger, held to just six first half minutes.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 18 for Ohio State, Deshaun Thomas added 14 points and nine rebounds for the 31-7 No. 2 seeds.
Brandon Triche kept Syracuse in the game with 15 points and Scoop Jardine added 14, but Montreal’s Kris Joseph looked out of sorts, forcing the issue in a 10 point, four turnover outing, his last before entering the NBA draft.
Syracuse, 34-3, earned a top seed before Melo was suspended for academic reasons. Baye Keita stepped up with 10 rebounds in his place.
All of the foul calls tested the depth of both sides, but luckily they are stocked with talent. Fifteen different players scored in a first half that was far from fluid and ended up tied at 29.
Once Sullinger returned, he was a force as OSU zipped the ball around the Syracuse zone, constantly finding him down low.
Syracuse made it interesting late, when Dion Waiters hit a tough layup, was fouled and hit the free throw to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to three with 36 seconds remaining. But OSU’s players stepped up and hit 13-of-14 free throws in the latter stages of the game.
It was a sour end to a scandal-plagued season for the Orange, who dealt with various off-court problems, mostly dating back years, but still managed to get to the Sweet 16.