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Thursday, Mar 15, 2018 at 2:10 am

Men’s Basketball Earns Comeback First Four Victory Over Arizona State

By Nick Dugan

DAYTON, O.H. – Syracuse (21-13) held a two point lead over Arizona State (20-12) heading into the half. But, that lead quickly evaporated as the Sun Devils scored eight straight points to jump ahead by six.

“Second half we came out kind of stagnant,” Frank Howard admitted. “Not using our length against the smaller guards. They killed us for that … we want to make it tough for them to see passing lanes and shooting gaps as well.”

The Orange had certainly done just that in the first frame. Arizona State, averaging nearly 83.5 points per game, scored just 28 points on 10-of-24 shooting. Leading scorer, Tra Holder, was held to only three points and one field goal in the first twenty minutes.

“For the most part, (we) got out on their shooters,” Head Coach Jim Boeheim said. “And for the most part we didn’t let them get in the lane … and when they did, we adjusted pretty well.”

The Sun Devils, who get to the free throw line at an impressive clip, failed to do so on Wednesday night. The team took just ten shots from the charity stripe and made just three. And that came back to bite them, as Syracuse snuck away from Dayton with a 60-56 win in the First Four, earning the opportunity to play TCU in Detroit on Friday.

But when the second half started ASU looked like a different team. The Sun Devils buckled down on defense.

“I’ve seen a lot of tape and they haven’t played defense at this level,” Boeheim said. “I thought they were very good defensively and they did well on the boards against us.”

In fact, Arizona State out-rebounded Syracuse 19-17 in the final 20 minutes, which translated to some opportunities on the offensive end against a tired SU zone. Kodi Justice knocked down a deep ball after deep ball to give the Sun Devils a 49-42 advantage.

“We had to score, two or three times almost in a row or the game would have been over,” Boeheim said.

And they did.

The leader of the comeback on the biggest stage, however, was not an upperclassman. Instead, it was freshman Oshae Brissett.

“He won the game. It’s as simple as that,” Howard said. “We know what he can do. We just have to put him in his right spots, have him take good shots and he’s going to be successful.”

“I mean, he stepped up big time tonight,” Tyus Battle said. “He hit some big shots – huge rebounds, but he’s done that countless times throughout the season, so I wasn’t surprised tonight. He really saved us tonight.”

The freshman from Ontario, Canada finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, making him just the fourth Syracuse freshman to record a double-double in the NCAA Tournament. He hit a number of shots and a crucial free throw in those final minutes to seal the deal for the Orange.

It wasn’t until a Shannon Evans II three-pointer rimmed out with two seconds remaining, that the Orange could begin to celebrate.

Their reward – Jamie Dixon and the sixth-seeded Horned Frogs, who has a 15-6 career record against SU.

“We haven’t really talked about them,” Brissett said. “I’m pretty sure tomorrow we’ll really go over them and get it done.”

Syracuse is scheduled to tip-off against TCU in Detroit on Friday at approximately 9:40 p.m.

nsdugan@syr.edu | @nsudgan