Syracuse 81, Montana 34

The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE -- Syracuse avoided the upsets that had terminated two high seeds that preceded them onto the HP Pavilion court Thursday night, leaving no doubt in an 81-34 demolition of Montana in a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament East Regional.

Playing nearly 3,000 miles from home, the fourth-seeded Orange (27-9) earned a third-round matchup with 12th-seeded California, a team that made the 40-mile drive back to campus following one of Thursday's upsets, a 64-61 elimination of fifth-seeded UNLV.

Another 12th seed, Oregon, earlier stunned fifth-seeded Oklahoma State 68-55 in San Jose in a Midwest Regional game to earn a shot Saturday at fourth-seeded Saint Louis, which began Saturday's quadruple-header according to form, steamrolling 13th-seeded New Mexico State 64-44.

Brandon Triche hit eight free throws en route to 20 points and teammates C.J. Fair (13) and DaJuan Coleman (12) also scored in double figures for the Orange, who quickly put the sting of last weekend's loss to Louisville in the Big East Conference tournament finals behind them.

Syracuse dominated the Big Sky Conference champions at both ends of the floor, shooting 51.9 percent overall and 45.5 percent (five of 11) from beyond the 3-point arc. Triche hit both of his 3-point attempts.

The Orange led 38-15 and came out of halftime just as hungry, running off six consecutive points and 17 of the first 19 to balloon the led to 55-17 with still 14:29 to play.

No Montana player scored more than five points, with Spencer Coleman, Kareem Jamar, Jordan Gregory and Jake Wiley tying for team-high honors.

The Grizzlies shot just 20.4 percent from the field for the game and struggled mightily from outside against the Syracuse zone, missing 27 of their 31 3-point attempts.

The game was a blowout basically from the opening tip, with Syracuse forward C.J. Fair's layup 14 seconds into the contest giving the Orange a lead they never relinquished.

Syracuse had 8-2, 7-1 and 5-1 bursts early on to go up 20-4, but the Orange probably saved its best basketball for the final 9:56 of the half, during which Montana had only one field goal.

Meanwhile, Triche capped a 12-point first half with four free throws, a jumper and a dunk as the Orange scored outscored the Grizzlies 15-4 to end the half with a commanding 38-15 advantage.

Montana's Kareem Jamar, the two-time Big Sky Conference Player of the Year, was scoreless in the first half, missing all four of his shots.

NOTES: The win improved Jim Boeheim's record to 25-5 in NCAA Tournament openers. ... Boeheim ranks fifth on the all-time list for NCAA Tournament coaching wins with 49. ... Montana again was without leading scorer Mathias Ward, a senior forward who averaged 14.8 points per game before being lost to season-ending foot surgery. ... The Grizzlies' last NCAA Tournament win came in 2006 over Nevada. ... Montana's four-year seniors won 93 games in their career, the most by any Grizzlies players ever.
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