Syracuse smothers Indiana as another No. 1 seed falls

Jay Busbee

Basketball is a very tough game if you can't score. Or pass. Or rebound. Or even hold onto the ball.

Syracuse showed up in the Sweet 16 ready to scrap. Indiana apparently thought it had been scheduled for Friday night. The result? A 61-50 whitewashing ... or, more properly, Orange crushing.

This one started ugly and never really got any prettier. Indiana had absolutely no answers for Syracuse's zone on the offensive end, turning over the ball 10 times in the first 10 minutes and 12 times overall in the first half. The other end of the court was no prettier; the Hoosier defense had no answers for Michael Carter Williams, who had 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting, and at one point Syracuse had opened up an 18-point first-half lead.

Thanks to strong play to end the first half and start the second, Indiana closed to within six, but could get no closer. Battling Syracuse this night was like playing in waist-deep maple syrup; nothing happened quickly or smoothly. No Indiana player could drive to the basket or go up for a rebound without running hard into three or four Orange jerseys. Victor Oladipo paced the Hoosiers with 16 points, but even he couldn't muscle his way through the Syracuse defense with any consistency. Indiana shot a woeful 34 percent from the field, and a ghastly 3-15 rate from three-point range was a key reason for their inability to close the gap.

Tom Crean finally threw in the candy-striped towel with 30 seconds left, bringing in seniors to close out the year. Until this game, Indiana was 11-1 when seeded #1 in the tournament. But in this year of parity, nothing is guaranteed, and Indiana simply couldn't hang with Syracuse's battering pressure over every square inch of the court.

Syracuse now goes on to face Marquette on Saturday afternoon, looking to avenge an earlier loss this season to the Golden Eagles. Now, with a trip to the Final Four on the line, Syracuse is — for the moment, anyway — looking as tough defensively as any team in the country.