No. 10 Syracuse cruises past No. 15 Middle Tennessee into the Sweet 16

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Syracuse is making an unlikely trip to the Sweet 16 after the No. 10 seed Orange ran past No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee, 75-50, on Sunday in a Midwest Regional game in St. Louis. After some believed that Syracuse was fortunate to earn a No. 10 seed — or even an at-large bid to begin with — the Orange have two convincing wins so far in the 2016 NCAA tournament.

After a sluggish first half that saw the Orange lead 31-27, Syracuse made its big move in the second half, as their defense stepped up and forced a lot of bad shots from the Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee took an early second-half lead at 33-31 on a Giddy Potts 3-pointer with 18:35 left, but the Orange only surrendered 17 points in the rest of the second half.

The Orange defense held Middle Tennessee to 29 percent (19-for-64) shooting from the field and 33 percent (8-for-24) from 3-point range as the Syracuse zone did a great job of extending and making life difficult for the Blue Raiders.

Senior Michael Gbinije paced the Orange with 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting while freshman big man Tyler Lydon played a great game on both ends, going for 14 points, seven rebounds and six blocks. Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson also added 12 points each for the Orange.

While this loss is disappointing for Middle Tennessee (25-10), America isn’t likely to forget the Blue Raiders upending everyone’s bracket with the humongous upset of Michigan State in the first round.

Senior Darnell Harris led the Blue Raiders with 11 points while Potts and Jaqawn Richmond both finished with nine points.

This is the first trip to the Sweet 16 for the Orange since 2013. Syracuse now moves on to face No. 11 seed Gonzaga in the Midwest Regional in Chicago next Friday. The matchup guarantees that the Elite Eight will have at least one double-digit seed. Syracuse and Gonzaga have previously met in the NCAA tournament with the Orange earning an 85-67 second-round win in 2010 while they were a No. 1 seed.

Syracuse advancing also means that six ACC teams will be playing in the Sweet 16, a new single-conference record.