|This picture says it all.|
For the Seth Davis's and other prognosticators out there, this was a hot pick for Montana to upset Syracuse. In our hearts, we knew our Orange just couldn't lose to the Grizzlies, but in our heads we knew that possibility was there: Syracuse had such a poor February/beginning of March, had been so inconsistent, and now had to travel 3000 miles across the country and deal with the possible distractions of more news of NCAA investigations. None of that should have mattered, but you know as well as I do that any one of those things, let alone put it all together, could spell disaster for this Syracuse team. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Syracuse shot out of the gate chasing the rabbit like it hadn't eaten in a week. These players were hungry, determined, and knew they wanted to grab and early need and not look back, other than to see how small Montana had gotten in the rear view mirror. So that's exactly how this game transpired... you know, once it actually started at 10:41pm EDT. A high octane Orange offense combined with a shut-it-down defense reminiscent of a few years ago, led Syracuse to a commanding 81-34 victory over Montana.
- Hello Brandon Triche! You were the team (and game) leading scorer with 20 points, on an extremely efficient 5-6 shooting, 2-2 from three, 8-10 from the line. Brandon was also active on defense, with four steals.
- CJ Fair was next with 13 points on 5-8 shooting, 1-1 from three, 2-3 at the line, three rebounds and two assists. Not really impressive numbers, mind you, but CJ was responsible for the first six Syracuse points, and was himself outscoring Montana for much of the first half. CJ's great play early allowed Syracuse to build its lead, which it never relinquished.
- DaJuan Coleman -- yes, that DaJuan Coleman -- played 15 minutes for 12 points on 4-9 from the floor and six rebounds. Granted, it was essentially garbage time once he got on the floor, and he towered over the Grizzlies, but you still gotta put the ball in the bucket. He did. And it was glorious.
- Solid effort from Michael Carter-Williams as well. While he onnly scored four points, he dished nine assists and grabbed eight rebounds, while only turning the ball over twice. He was also responsible for three steals on the other end. That's what you want from your starting point guard.
- James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas each scored nine points, and used their size and length to gain the advantage over Montana, no matter the situation.
- Trevor Cooney deserves his own bullet here (Thug Cooney). In significant minutes (18) he scored seven points, including a three and a big slam dunk. Who knew he had it in him?
- Fellow freshman Jerami Grant also saw big minutes (22) and though he only scored five points, was real active on the glass with eight rebounds.
- Not a big game for Baye Moussa Keita, only a bucket and a couple rebounds in eight minutes.
- Walk ons. In an NCAA Tournament game. This happened.
- Your complete list of double-digit scorers for Montana:
- Your complete list of Grizzlies with more than five points:
- But in all seriousness, the Montana offense just had no answer for the zone, no answer for the size of Syracuse. The Grizzlies shot a measly 20.4% from the field, were out-rebounded 40-33, and just couldn't get anything positive going.
- A good shooting team can beat the zone by the three. We all know this. So does everyone else. That explains why Montana had 31 attempts from three. Four of them found the bottom of the net.
- Syracuse led in some important statistical categories, including points off turnovers (17-4), second chance points (14-5), and points in the paint (38-12). Given the large margin of victory, none of these stats should surprise you.
Prior to the Montana - Syracuse tip, UNLV and California battled it out. To. The. Very. End. 12-seed Cal was victorious over 5-seed UNLV, so the Golden Bears are up next for the Orange, with a preliminary scheduled tip-time of 9:40pm EDT on Saturday. Cal is Berkeley, Berkeley is in the same Bay Area as San Jose, and as I'm sure you'll hear a million times during the broadcast, only about 45 miles up the east side of San Francisco Bay from the venue. It'll be a very pro-Bears crowd. But when a berth to the Sweet Sixteen is on the line, that doesn't matter. You just gotta ball.