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The Orange Get Squeezed Out By Ohio State

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A tight game, a final 4 berth, a partisan Syracuse crowd. Those were the elements on display Saturday night in Boston during the East Regional Final in the final 8 game between Ohio State and Syracuse, a close contest decided only by OSU’s tenacity and some free throws as OSU took down Syracuse 77-70 Saturday night. The Bucs moved on to the Final 4 while Cuse, after a turbulent season with many ups and downs, ended at 34-3.

The game was tied at the half at 29. Jared Sullinger, anchored to the bench much of the 1st half with early foul trouble again led the Bucs with 19 points and 7 boards. The fantastic Sophomore was called for 2 fouls within the first 6 minutes of the first half and sat the pine for the remaining 14-plus minutes.

The game was decided late, as both squads went back and forth. The big difference statistically was at the foul line as a season-long weakness came back to bite the Orange. OSU shot 42 free throws, compared to 25 for Syracuse. Orange coach Jim Boeheim was upset with the officiating in the first half even taking a technical foul.

Ohio State is back in the final 4 for the first time since 2007, where OSU lost in the title game to Florida. Syracuse was seeking a return to New Orleans for the final 4 after winning the title in the Cresent City in 2003.

OSU led 46-36 with just under 14 minutes left but Syracuse scored scored 8 of the next 9 points to make it a 1-point game. The game stayed tight the remainder of the way. Syracuse, however, could never wrestle the lead away from Ohio State. Ohio State is the final big 10 team left in the tourney. The Conference put four teams in the Sweet 16. The Big East is also down to one club, as Louisville defeated Florida in the West regional final in Phoenix to advance to next weeks final 4.

The defeat marked the end of a turbulent season for Boeheim’s club. They lost assistant coach Bernie Fine in December after he was fired for allegedly sexually abusing several former Orange ball boys. The case is still pending. Syracuse lost center Fab Melo for 3 games early this season with academic issues then lost him again for the same reason right before the tournament began last Thursday. The Orange were also hit with accusations of failed drug tests by previous  players and teams. These accusations are still being investigated by the NCAA, although they are Syracuse drug tests,  not NCAA (which does not have a drug testing program).

Bradon Triche led the Orange with 15 points in the loss to Ohio State who plays the winner of the North Carolina-Kansas tilt on Sunday in the final 4 next Saturday in New Orleans.

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