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Saturday, Mar 17, 2018 at 3:04 am

Syracuse Upends No. 6 TCU with Impressive Defensive Effort

By Nick Dugan

DETROIT, M.I. – Frank Howard had a big smile on his face.

“Somebody did say something, like, ‘Virginia is losing by 20’,” he remembered. “I said, ‘Damn, we can’t lose. Let’s lock in.’”

On a night where a 16-seed defeated a 1-seed for the first time in NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament history, Syracuse (22-13) pulled off an upset of its own over TCU (21-12), 57-52 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Our defense was tremendous,” head coach Jim Boeheim said afterwards. “They’re one of the better shooting teams from the three-point line, and these guys just played. They didn’t get an easy shot the whole game.”

The Horned Frogs entered the game shooting the three-ball at a 40 percent clip, which ranked sixteenth-best in the nation. On Friday night, the Orange allowed their opponents to shoot just 3-of-18 from downtown, which includes going 0-for-8 in the second half.

“Our defense tonight was one of the best it’s been all year,” said Tyus Battle. “We were moving, talking and just making it really tough for them. They scored a couple times down low, but from the three-point line they didn’t get anything. So, that’s how we have to play every game.”

One of the most successful stretches for Jamie Dixon’s squad came in the final four minutes of the first half. TCU closed the first frame on an 8-0 run, with all their points coming in the paint.

“I think we got a few buckets in transition,” senior guard Kenrich Williams said simply. “We got a few stops late in the half.”

But heading into the locker room, ‘Cuse flipped a switch.

“If we keep playing defense, the offense will come,” Matt Moyer said.

“We knew we were struggling offensively, a lot,” Battle said. “So, we just had to buckle down defensively. Make it tough, get some steals – blocks – and get to the foul line.”

The one member of the Orange who perhaps didn’t need to change too much at the changeover was Marek Dolezaj. The freshman hit six of his nine field goal attempts for 13 points, including just his second three-pointer of the year.

“They’re a good defensive team, but they didn’t guard me good,” he said. “I know I can drive easy and that’s what I did [in] the first half.”

“He’s capable of scoring if he gets in the right situations,” Boeheim said. “Everybody is worried about the other three guys…and he’s gradually been able to figure that out.”

But, in a tight game down the stretch, it was a mix of every player in the rotation that helped carry the team to victory.

“When we can get contributions from everyone like that, you know, I think we’ve won every game this year…we want to build off of that, build off of that confidence in these guys,” Frank Howard said.

Another all-around effort could be even more critical in their next matchup, as SU faces Michigan State in a de facto home game for the Spartans.

“You’re going to have to beat them,” Howard admitted. “They’re not going to lose…we’re ready for that task.”

Syracuse’s matchup with the No. 3 seed will be on Sunday afternoon at approximately 2:40 p.m.

@NSDugan | nsdugan@syr.edu