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Saturday, June 22
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

IU’s dream for a 6th banner falls short

History did not repeat itself Thursday evening, at least not the history IU wanted.

There was no last-minute jumper to defeat Syracuse like in 1987.

There was no Sweet Sixteen comeback from a double-digit deficit as there was in 2002 against Duke.

There will be no sixth banner. Not this year.

Instead, IU lost its fourth consecutive game to Syracuse, the vaunted Syracuse zone defense working nearly to a fault as 12 first-half turnovers put IU in an ever-deepening hole. IU never tunneled out, falling 61-50 in a Sweet Sixteen matchup in Washington, D.C.

“We had a heck of a ride with this group,” IU Coach Tom Crean said.

With an Elite Eight berth at stake, only five Hoosiers scored, and just junior guard Victor Oladipo shot better than 50 percent from the field. He led IU with 16 points.

Poor shooting, a typical hallmark of IU losses, was the case again Thursday, as the team shot just 16-of-48 and a paltry 3-of-15 from 3-point range.

IU took an aggressive tact from the get-go, while Syracuse’s length and athleticism was on full display.

Yet each team had fairly little to show for it. With IU encountering several bodies with each drive up the lane — often resulting in fouls — and Syracuse missing several open looks, the game entered the first media timeout with IU trailing 4-3, all points coming from the foul line.

Coming out of that first stoppage, though, the Orange hit stride, building a 9-0 total run to lead 11-3.

Rangy Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams was on freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell from the moment the Hoosier crossed midcourt on each possession, if not sooner. Ferrell had a pair of quick turnovers and the IU offense as a whole was unable to build any manner of momentum.

Carter-Williams was a nearly impossible matchup for IU all evening, its smaller guards simply unable to keep pace with his longer stride and quick hands. He finished with a team-leading 24 points and four steals.

IU did not convert its first field goal until 6:12 into the game when sophomore guard Remy Abell, fresh off the bench, drove for a layup.

Meanwhile the turnovers continued, regardless of how deep on the bench Crean went. Ferrell led with four, but Oladipo had three as well.

It was not simply that IU was turning the ball over, costing itself shot attempts, though. Even when the Hoosiers managed to get a shot off, successful shots were few and far between. Meanwhile, Syracuse gradually pulled away, the lead reaching as many as 18 points.

With no turnovers in the half’s last 4:42, IU mounted a late run, pulling within 11 points before settling for the 12-point halftime margin. Prior to Thursday, IU had not trailed by more than three at halftime this season.

IU’s newfound momentum carried over to the second stanza, as it began the period on a 7-0 run, utilizing its fast break so as not to allow the Orange zone to even set up. The deficit was quickly cut to six, ultimately the closest margin of the half.

Syracuse’s offense did not stay stagnant long, though, and the time allowed by made baskets for the zone defense to set up in turn slowed down the Hoosier offense. About eight minutes into the half, the Syracuse lead was back up to 12 and Oladipo sat on the bench with an apparent ankle injury from diving out of bounds.

Even when the junior returned, the Orange continued to slowly pull back out of reach. IU never wavered from its game plan on offense, sending the ball down low at every opportunity, forcing plays at times.

Yet no matter which Hoosier had the post, no shot went uncontested. Three different players posted at least two blocks for the Orange on their way to 10 overall.

When IU attempted one last run, it was not through post play. A 3-pointer by senior forward Christian Watford, in his final college game, pulled IU within 10 points at 56-46 with 3:40 remaining.

It was as close as IU would get, Syracuse salting away the game with free throws and its suffocating zone defense.

With about 30 seconds left, Crean inserted senior forward Derek Elston, a symbolic move that put the team’s three seniors — three players who had keyed IU’s return to relevance in the past four years — on the floor together one last time.

Thursday evening, they could not finish what they started.

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