Boeheim earned his 50th career NCAA tournament win as the Orange reached the regional semifinals for the fourth time in five years. This might have been one of the ugliest of those wins as Syracuse struggled to make a basket in the second half, relying on strong play on the defensive end and a parade to the foul line.
The teams combined for just three made baskets in the first 10:50 of the second half and Syracuse went almost six minutes without even taking a shot as Cal committed seven shooting fouls in the opening 6:02. The Orange hit eight of those 14 free throws to extend their lead to 42-30, but went 12:13 without a basket from the field.
“We knew we had an advantage, us guards, being able to get by their guards,” Brandon Triche said. “So that’s what we wanted to do. I think within the first five minutes or so, we probably created six fouls on their guys and got in the bonus very early.”
As frustrated as the Bears and their fans were with the lopsided foul count, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense was even more confounding. Crabbe found no room to get off a shot, with the Syracuse defenders closing quickly on him even when he caught the ball 25 feet from the basket.
Point guard Justin Cobbs also struggled against the zone and even when Cal got the ball inside, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita were there to block or alter the shot.
Cal managed to get a 14-point lead cut down to seven with less than five minutes to go but Southerland and Carter-Williams answered with tough shots at the other end to quiet the crowd and keep Syracuse in control.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Crabbe and Tyrone Wallace got the deficit back down to 58-51 with 1:50 to go and Cal stole the inbound pass, but Crabbe stepped on the sideline to give the Orange the ball back.
Carter-Williams then drew a charge from Cobbs with a minute left and the Orange up seven. Keita’s dunk sealed the victory.