Syracuse Orange Carter-Williams reacts as the official signals a three-point shot against the Indiana Hoosiers during the second half in their East Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Washington

No. 4 Syracuse upsets No. 1 Indiana behind Michael Carter-Williams’ redemption

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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.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org