WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michael Carter-Williams scored 24 points and added five boards and four steals while Cody Zeller finished with just 10 points on 3-10 shooting from the floor as No. 4 Syracuse pulled off the upset 61-50, taking down No. 1 seed Indiana and setting up an all-Big East Regional Final on Saturday.
And in the end, it was the Orange’s defense that did it.
The Orange held the nation’s No. 1 offense to just 50 points and 0.781 points-per-possession. The Hoosiers shot 33.3% from the field and just 3-15 from three. You want some telling statistics? Syracuse had 12 steals, forced 19 turnovers and blocked 10 shots; the Hoosiers made just 13 two-point field goals on the night. The Hoosiers simply had no answer for Syracuse’s length, and it showed all night long.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the victory for Syracuse was the play of Michael Carter-Williams. The most maligned member of the Syracuse roster, MCW has been criticized for a lack of leadership, poor decision-making and an inability to hit perimeter jumpers. If you listen to the critics, that’s part of what contributed to the Syracuse collapse in February, when they fell from a top five ranking after winning at Louisville to the No. 5 seed in the Big East tournament; it’s why they blew a 16 point second half lead to Louisville in the Big East title game.
But Carter-Williams played as well as he has all season on Thursday night, hitting 3-5 from beyond the arc and committing just two turnovers despite going up against pressure from Victor Oladipo all night long.
“Mike’s had a great year. He’s really played tremendously well all year long,” Jim Boeheim said. “He hasn’t made the three, they were going under on the screens, and my only coaching move of the night was in the huddle, I said stop and take the three. I didn’t think he’d make it, I just wanted them to think he’d shoot it. But he made it, and that was a big lift for us.”
Carter-Williams’ issues go well beyond on the court struggles, as he’s still dealing with the fact that his family’s house back in Hamilton, MA, burned down over the weekend. “I think he’s obviously happy that no one got hurt,” Boeheim said,
“and that his mom and dad and his siblings have got a place to live.”
It’s quite a redemption for Carter-Williams, one that will have him playing in the Elite 8 on Saturday.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.