March Madness has already shown us sizzling offensive performances, impossible shots in the clutch and unbelievable upsets. On Saturday, it showed yet another side: tough, grind it out defense.
In the afternoon game, the No. 4 Syracuse Orange's 2-3 zone was merciless in a 55-39 beating of the No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles. The evening game saw the No. 9 Wichita State Shockers disrupt the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes on offense for much of the game, although a frantic Buckeyes comeback that fell short helped close the final score to 70-66.
Syracuse went into a halftime with a 24-18 lead and quietly put Marquette away in the second half with more smothering defense and just enough shot-making.
The Orange held the Eagles to 23% shooting and forced 14 turnovers on route to Marquette's season low. Vander Blue managed 14 points for Marquette but hit just 3-15 from the floor while committing four turnovers.
James Southerland led Syracuse's well-rounded offense, scoring 16. C.J. Fair added 13, Michael Carter-Williams had 12 and Brandon Triche chipped in nine. They will face either the winner of tomorrow's Michigan/Florida showdown.
Ohio State-Wichita State
Wichita State led 56-36 halfway through the second half, but Ohio State rallied within three with under three minutes to go. The comeback bid would end there, as the Shockers' Tekele Cotton hit a clutch three-pointer to push the lead, and the Shockers hit the necessary free throws down the stretch to close the game out.
Ohio State's scorers did not find a groove until it was too late, shooting 31% for the game. Meanwhile, Wichita State's incredible run puts them in the Final Four -- the first time a No. 9 seed has reached the Final Four since 1994. They will play against either Louisville or Duke, depending on the outcome of tomorrow's regional match-up.