Final Four Here We Come!
CHICAGO – Syracuse’s magical NCAA Tournament journey continues! The Orange overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to defeat No. 1 seed Virginia, 68-62, in the Midwest Regional final to advance to the Final Four for the sixth time in school history. The Orange used a 25-4 scoring run in the second half to defeat the Cavaliers for the first time since joining the ACC.
Freshman Malachi Richardson tied his season high with 23 points, matching his total from the Jan. 24 contest in Charlottesville, and was named the Midwest Regional MVP. Graduate student Michael Gbinije added 11 points, extending his streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 34, and was named to the All-Region Team. Freshman Tyler Lydon also had 11 points, while Tyler Roberson had 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Graduate student Trevor Cooney added eight points and four steals.
Virginia led by 15, 54-39, with 9:32 remaining. Roberson’s dunk at the 9:16 mark started the Orange on the decisive scoring run, which featured 14 points from Richardson. He accounted for the last seven points of the offensive outburst that gave Syracuse a 64-58 lead with 3:27 on the clock. The run also coincided with the Orange instituting the full-court press, which forced the Cavaliers to go at a pace they normally don’t play.
The Orange led by four when Virginia’s All-American Malcolm Brogdon went to the free throw line. He hit both of his attempts to cut Syracuse’s advantage to two with 27 seconds remaining. The Cavaliers fouled Gbinije with 25 seconds remaining, sending him to the charity stripe. He went 1-for-2, putting the Orange up 65-62.
Virginia missed on a 3-point attempt on its next possession and Lydon grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled with 9.2 seconds on the clock. He hit both free throws and senior DaJuan Coleman added a free throw in the closing seconds for the 68-62 final.
Anthony Gill’s dunk to start the second half gave Virginia a 16-point advantage, but the Orange responded with an 11-2 scoring run to cut the deficit to seven, 39-32 at the 15:02 mark. Richardson and Coleman each it a pair of free throws before Cooney scored two straight baskets. Lydon capped the run with a 3-pointer.
The Cavaliers pushed its lead back to double digits, but a 3-pointer by Richardson brought the Orange within eight, 45-37. Virginia built its lead back up to 15, but it was all Syracuse after that.
Syracuse jumped out to a 6-2 lead thanks to a pair of Roberson baskets off offensive rebounds. London Perrantes hit a 3-pointer at the 14:14 mark for the Cavaliers’ first field goal, sparking Virginia on a 19-2 scoring run. Darius Thompson capped the run with a layup with 6:33 on the clock to give the Cavaliers a 21-10 advantage.
Cooney halted the run with a jumper in the lane before Gbinije stole an inbounds pass and went the length of the floor for a layup to cut the deficit to seven, 21-14. But Virginia continued to click on offense and Perrantes’ 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining gave the Cavaliers their largest lead of the half. He hit five three’s in the first half for all of his game-high 15 points, helping Virginia to a 35-21 halftime advantage. The 21 points is the lowest total in the first half for the Orange this season.
The Orange will play in the national semifinals for the second time in four years next weekend in Houston and will face an ACC foe – either North Carolina or Notre Dame on Saturday, April 2.