Jared Sullinger led four Ohio State starters in double figures with 19 points to go along with seven rebounds as the 2-seed Buckeyes beat 1-seed Syracuse (34-3) 77-70 in the East regional final.
Brandon Triche led Syracuse with 15 points and Scoop Jardine added 14 and six assists in his final collegiate game, but it wasn’t enough to get the Orange back to the site of their lone national title (2003).
Ohio State outscored Syracuse 31-20 from the foul line, and in a game that featured 48 personal fouls that proved to be the difference.
Both teams had to deal with foul trouble in the first half but Ohio State was able to navigate Sullinger having to sit the final 14 minutes of the first half with two fouls, going into the intermission tied at 29.
“We got Sullinger in foul trouble early and we didn’t take advantage of it,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim after the game. “You know when he comes back in he’s going to be difficult, and he was, but I thought the first half it got away from us.”
His return to the floor gave Ohio State a much-needed boost offensively, as they were able to attack the middle of the Syracuse zone.
Sullinger, William Buford and Deshaun Thomas grabbed three offensive boards apiece and as a team Ohio State grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which worked out to an offensive rebound percentage of 43.8% for the Buckeyes.
But the biggest issue for Syracuse was their play on the offensive end. Ohio State shot 41% from the field and 31% from three, numbers they were able to make up for at the foul line.
Syracuse wasn’t much better at 42% from the field and 38% from three, but with Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters combining to shoot 6 of 19 the task of beating Ohio State became all the more difficult.
“I thought our defense was good. I just thought we lost a little offensive patience in the first half,” said Boeheim. “I thought we forced some shots in some situations when we should have been a little bit more patient. I think our offense just hurt us tonight.”
Ohio State will play the winner of the Midwest Region final, Kansas or North Carolina, in next Saturday’s national semifinals.