03/22 00:02 CDT Baylor shoots past Syracuse 78-69 in NCAA's West Region
Baylor shoots past Syracuse 78-69 in NCAA's West Region
By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Basketball Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) --- Baylor heard all week about Syracuse's vaunted zone,
how long the Orange are, how difficult it is to find openings.
The Bears solved it by going over the top --- after getting it inside.
Creating open shots through the high post and kick-outs off drives, Baylor set
a school NCAA Tournament record with 16 3-pointers to beat Syracuse 78-68
Thursday night in the West Region.
"The fact that we play zone helped us in this game, being able to go against
that and practice every day with our guys flying around," said Baylor's Makai
Mason, who had 22 points. "We are used to those shots, kick-out 3s."
The ninth-seeded Bears (20-13) do play a zone, but Syracuse's is much different
and the Orange have taller players, so there's been a learning curve for the
Bears since Selection Sunday.
Baylor found the gaps in Syracuse's 2-3 zone anyway. The Bears nearly matched
the school tournament record of 11 3-pointers in the first half (10) and made
16 of 34 overall.
Baylor shot 54 percent and slowed Syracuse's 3-point barrage in the second half
to earn a shot at top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday.
Mason and Jared Butler (14 points) each hit four 3-pointers in a game that had
the most 3s (28) in a non-overtime NCAA Tournament game.
"We thought we could get looks if we executed and it was important we knocked
down shots," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We made shots and that's what makes
an offense work a lot better against the zone."
No. 8 seed Syracuse (20-14) matched the Bears nearly 3 for 3 in a stellar first
half before bogging down in the second.
Elijah Hughes had 25 points and hit seven of the Orange's 12 3-pointers. Tyus
Battle scored 16 points after missing both of Syracuse's ACC Tournament games
with a bruised back.
"They're a smart team, they play a zone," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We
just didn't cover as well as we needed to."
The Orange have the nation's tallest team --- topped by 7-foot-2 Pascal Chukwu
--- and a history of success in March. The defensive scheme helped Syracuse
reach at least the third round of the NCAA Tournament in its eight previous
trips, and it made the Final Four as a 10 seed in 2016.
But the zone does have its flaws, as Virginia showed while hitting a
school-record 18 3-pointers in the Orange's regular-season home finale.
The Bears hit six 3s in the first six minutes a variety of ways: drive and
kicks, after offensive rebounds, extra deep, even a banked-in one by Mark Vital.
Not wanting to be left out of the 3-or-nothing party, Syracuse dotted the shot
chart along the arc, hitting nine 3-pointers of its own --- one for a
four-point play by Battle.
Of the 25 made field goals in the first half, 19 were 3s.
Hughes had 18 points by halftime and looked at Drew after dropping in his fifth
3-pointer of the half.
Mason made four and had 16 points, giving the Bears a 38-37 lead.
The trey spigot remained open in the second half --- at least for Baylor.
The Bears opened 6 for 13 from the arc and Syracuse had a stretch of nearly
five minutes without a field goal as the Bears stretched their lead to 68-59.
The Orange trimmed the lead to three, but Baylor kept hitting shots to keep
them at arm's length.
"We didn't stop them," Syracuse forward Marek Dolezaj said. "That was the
difference in the game."
Syracuse tried to match Baylor shot for shot, but came up short in its first
opening-round NCAA Tournament loss since 2006.
The Bears caught fire at just the right time, ending a four-game losing streak
to advance in the bracket.
Syracuse played without senior point guard Frank Howard, who was suspended
indefinitely on Wednesday for violating school policy.
The Orange had some offensive success, but couldn't sustain it, finishing with
12 assists and 13 turnovers without Howard running the show.
"Obviously, we missed him. He's our point guard," Boeheim said. "I'm not going
to sit here and make excuses. He isn't here."
The combined 3-pointers made by Baylor and Syracuse were behind only
Drake-Western Kentucky with 30 in 2008 and West Virginia-Louisville with 29 in
Baylor faces top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday.
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