SAN JOSE, Calif. — For the second consecutive year, Hamilton’s Michael Carter-Williams and Syracuse are going to the Sweet 16.
This year, Carter-Williams is a major reason why.
Carter-Williams, Syracuse’s starting point guard and a Bob Cousy Award finalist, scored 12 points, handed out three assists and grabbed a pair of rebounds as the fourth-seeded Orange defeated 12th-seeded California, 66-60, on Saturday night to advance to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse struggled on offense, but found a way to win with defense. The Orange held Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe to just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.
“It’s like when a shark smells blood,” said Carter-Williams, a sophomore who played a limited role with Syracuse last year. “You just get excited and want to keep going and shut him down some more. We definitely got that feeling and it just pushed us to play defense more.”
C.J. Fair scored 18 points, James Southerland added 14 for Syracuse, which will now play No. 1 seed Indiana on Thursday night.
“It was not pretty,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Honestly, I don’t think I can describe it. It was about as ugly as I think it can get.”
Boeheim was talking specifically about the closing minutes, but that sentiment could sum up most of the game on the offensive end. Syracuse (28-9) made just 39 percent of its shots and missed 15 of 41 free throws.
Richard Solomon scored 22 points for the Bears (21-12), who were trying to reach the round of 16 for the first time in 16 years and just the third time since 1960. They were denied because they couldn’t solve Syracuse’s defense.
“The zone accomplished what it wanted to,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “I was fearful that was going to happen. I knew where the strengths of the zone and what the weaknesses were. I wasn’t sure we had the personnel in a day to get done what we needed to get done.”