(2) Ohio State 77

(31-7, 13-5 Big Ten)

(1) Syracuse 70

(34-3, 17-1 Big East)

    Coverage: CBS

    7:05 PM ET, March 24, 2012

    TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

    1 2 T
    #2OSU 29 4877
    #1SYR 29 4170

    Top Performers

    Ohio State: J. Sullinger 19 Pts, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Syracuse: S. Jardine 14 Pts, 1 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl

    Jared Sullinger powers Ohio State past Syracuse and into Final Four

    Associated Press

    BOSTON -- Ohio State coach Thad Matta sized up his team in the middle of the season and had it figured for an early loss when the NCAA tournament came around.

    The final weekend of March Madness is next, and the Buckeyes will be there.

    Jared Sullinger recovered from first-half foul trouble to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds, helping Ohio State beat top-seeded Syracuse 77-70 on Saturday to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans. The second-seeded Buckeyes will play the winner of Sunday's Midwest Regional final between North Carolina and Kansas.

    "We're not going down to New Orleans for a vacation. It's a business trip," said Sullinger, who picked up his second foul 6 minutes into the game and did not return the rest of the half. "These guys have played without me before, so they know what they have to do."

    Deshaun Thomas scored 14 points with nine rebounds for Ohio State (31-7), which led by eight points with 59 seconds to play and held on after the Orange cut it to three. The Buckeyes made 13 of 14 free throws in the final 68 seconds and finished 31 of 42 from the line.

    Ohio State is making its first trip to the Final Four since 2007, when it lost in the national championship game to Florida. They had lost in the regional semifinals in each of the past two seasons, and Matta wasn't even sure they would make it that far after a series of unimpressive practices.

    When the Buckeyes, who spent five weeks as the No. 2 team in the nation, closed out February with three defeats in five games -- including a home loss to Wisconsin on Feb. 26 -- Matta had more reason to worry.

    But he got the response he was hoping for.

    "That loss opened their eyes and said, 'Hey, maybe we're not as good as we think we are,' " Matta said. "Maybe it got us pointed in the right direction."

    Brandon Triche scored 15 points, and Baye Keita had 10 rebounds for Syracuse (34-3). The Orange were hoping for a return trip to New Orleans, where they won their only national championship in 2003.

    In a tightly officiated game that left Sullinger on the bench in foul trouble for most of the first half and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim not-quite muzzled after picking up a technical foul, it came down to free throws. Syracuse was called for 29 fouls -- its most in more than three years -- despite playing its usual 2-3 zone.

    Boeheim didn't like several of the fouls called.

    He picked up a technical for objecting to a foul in the first half, and he escaped another in the second half despite shouting his profane complaint across the court. At one point, he turned to Jeff Hathaway, the chairman of the NCAA selection committee who was sitting near the Syracuse bench, and made his case in person.

    Afterward, Boeheim gave a terse "no comment" when asked if the officials hurt the flow of the game. A statement from the officiating crew chief said Boeheim was given a technical for being out of the coaching box and gesturing about a call.

    "We're not going to blame it on the refs," said guard Scoop Jardine, who had 14 points and six assists. "I think we had a chance to win the game no matter what, with the refs or without them giving us any calls."

    The Orange went to the line 25 times, making 20 foul shots.

    The frequent whistles left both teams struggling to get into a groove in the first half -- there were only four baskets in the last 9:30. That seemed to be good news for Ohio State, which managed to stay with the No. 1 seed despite getting only 6 minutes from Sullinger, the star of the Buckeyes' East Regional semifinal win over Cincinnati.

    "We got Sullinger in foul trouble early and we didn't take advantage of it," Boeheim said. "You know when he comes back in he's going to be difficult, and he was."

    Syracuse was already without 7-footer Fab Melo, who missed the tournament with academic issues, and replacement Rakeem Christmas picked up two quick fouls early in the second half to leave him with four.

    Ohio State opened a 46-36 lead with under 14 minutes to play. Syracuse scored eight of the next nine points to make it a one-point game, but the Orange never could get back in the lead.

    They trailed by eight with 59 seconds left and cut it to three, but they needed the Buckeyes to miss free throws, and that didn't happen.

    The loss ended a tumultuous season for Syracuse that began with accusations by two former ball boys that they were sexually abused in the 1980s by Bernie Fine, a longtime Syracuse assistant coach. Boeheim vigorously defended him, but later walked back his support in the face of new information. Fine, who was fired Nov. 27, has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.

    The school also revealed this month that it had self-reported possible violations of its internal drug policy by members of previous teams; the NCAA is investigating.

    But the biggest hit might have been the loss of Melo, Syracuse's leading rebounder who also averaged 5.8 points per game. Even without him, the Orange beat North Carolina-Asheville and Kansas State to earn a trip to Boston, then survived a pair of potential game-winners to beat Wisconsin 64-63 on Thursday and advance to the regional final.

    Ohio State reached the round of eight by beating Loyola of Maryland and then Gonzaga before winning a Battle of the Buckeye State against Cincinnati in Boston on Thursday night. The Buckeyes were one of four teams from Ohio in the round of 16, and the only one to make it to the regional finals.

    Ohio State is also the last remaining team from the Big Ten, which placed six teams in the NCAA tournament and four in the round of 16.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 77 70
    FG Made-Attempted 21-51 (.412) 22-53 (.415)
    3P Made-Attempted 4-13 (.308) 6-16 (.375)
    FT Made-Attempted 31-42 (.738) 20-25 (.800)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 28 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 10 2


    » Mar 24, 2012 OSU 77, @SYR 70Recap

    Research Notes

    Syracuse scored 28 paint points in Saturday's loss to Ohio State, the first time this season that the Orange have lost when scoring at least 20 paint points. Syracuse was previously 33-0 when scoring at least 20 paint points.
    Ohio State drew 27 fouls against the Syracuse zone defense on Saturday, the most fouls drawn against the Syracuse zone in the last three Men's Basketball Championships. It is the highest number of fouls committed by a team while in a zone defense in the last three tournaments.
    Jared Sullinger scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, including nine points from the free throw line. He has made 27 free throws in the tournament, most among any player in the field. Thirty-eight percent of his points have come from the free throw line so far in the 2012 Men's Basketball Championship. He scored 25.8 percent of his points from the line for the season entering the tournament.
    Ohio State made 7 of 11 shots outside the paint in the second half Saturday, the Buckeyes' highest shooting percentage outside the paint in a half over the last three NCAA tournaments. Ohio State was shooting 40.5 percent on shots outside the paint in its first three tournament games, which was sixth among teams in the tournament entering Saturday.
    Ohio State shot 43.8 percent against Syracuse's zone defense Saturday and was 11-21 (52.4 percent) against the zone in the second half. Syracuse's zone allowed its highest single-game shooting percentage in the last three Men's Basketball Championships on Saturday.
    Ohio State beats a No. 1 seed for the 2nd time in school history. It also did so in 1999, when it beat top-seeded Auburn, 72-64 in the South Regional Semifinal. That Ohio State team lost in the Final 4 to Connecticut. The Buckeyes improve to 2-4 all-time when facing a No. 1 seed.
    Jim Boeheim falls to 1-7 all-time in the NCAA Touranment against Big Ten opponents.

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