And we all thought that Syracuse was done.
For the second straight day, the Orange got into a rhythm offensively, opening up a 40-27 lead at the half and hanging on down the stretch to win, 62-59, as Pitt made their run. It sets up a dream-come-true semifinal, where the Orange will be taking on Georgetown in the final Big East tournament for the right play for the title.
It’s almost too perfect, but that’s another post for another day.
What’s more important, for now, is that Syracuse finally looks like the team that climbed their way into the top five earlier this season. The team that went into Louisville and knocked off the Cardinals back in January. The team that, before the meltdown over the last month and a half, were thought to be a real national title contender.
Whether or not that last statement is actually true remains to be seen, but what we’ve seen over the last two days is that Syracuse has managed to fight their way through their recent offensive struggles. James Southerland has now scored 20 points in each of the first two games, hitting 66.7% from the floor and an incredible 80% (12-15) from three. The Orange committed just 17 turnovers through 80 minutes and, as a team, Syracuse is shooting 61.8% (21-34) from three through the two games.
Their problems aren’t completely solved, however.
Michael Carter-Williams still committed six turnovers against Pitt. The Orange still managed just 22 points in the second half and nearly blew their big lead on Thursday night. Seton Hall jumped out to a 28-19 lead on Wednesday night before Syracuse finally figured things out.
But those things happen when teams are playing with their season on the line. That’s basketball in March. And while the Orange were, at one point, thought to be one of the best teams in the country, they were never once considered unbeatable. No one is, especially this season.
The important takeaway is that Syracuse made enough plays to win. That hasn’t been the case in a long time.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.