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Syracuse passes road test against Cal

The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Syracuse won't be playing its next basketball game at home, but relatively speaking, it's sure going to seem like it.

Earning a trip to rival Georgetown's back yard has never felt so good.

Michael Carter-Williams penetrated the California defense for two baskets at critical stages of the second half Saturday night as fourth-seeded Syracuse overcame a long field-goal drought and a significant neutral-site disadvantage to hold off the 12th-seeded Golden Bears 66-60 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament East Regional at HP Pavilion.

The victory allows Syracuse (28-9) to return to familiar ground when it meets the winner of Sunday's Indiana-Temple game on Thursday night in Big East country -- Washington, D.C. -- in the Sweet 16.

"This was tough," winning coach Jim Boeheim said of playing in front of a capacity crowd that was strongly in favor of Cal. "Obviously, Oregon (which won the night's first game over Saint Louis) and Cal are really good teams. And for them to be playing right here is tough to overcome. I'm proud that we were able to overcome that. That's not easy to do."

Fortunately for the Orange, there was no regional bias in the officiating. Syracuse benefited from 41 free throws and a 26-12 points advantage at the foul line that more than accounted for the margin of victory.

"We fouled them a lot," said Cal coach Mike Montgomery, who had no complaints about the officiating. "The difference being that they were going to the basket and we weren't. We needed to do a better job of defending. It's pure and simple."

The Syracuse defense contributed to that as well. Despite playing in a road-type setting just 40 miles south of the Cal campus, the Orange held the Bears' big scorers in check while doing just enough offensively to take a giant step closer to what could be the school's fifth trip to the Final Four.

Cal standouts Allen Crabbe, the Pacific-12 Conference Player of the Year, and Justin Cobbs were limited to 18 shots from the field by an alert Syracuse defense. Their combined 13 points were 19 fewer than the 32 they combined to score in Thursday's second-round win over UNLV.

"They keyed on me. The shots that I thought I would probably get weren't there," said Crabbe, whose was 3 of 9 from the field in an eight-point night. "You've got to give the credit to them. They were there, contesting (everything). I was in the air passing the ball, deferring my shots."

Boeheim, whose team plays exclusively zone defense, was ecstatic with the defensive effort.

"We practice every day during the year against a designated guy," he said. "Five guys have to be aware where he is. And we have to move out on him.

"We really tried to do a good job on Cobbs and Crabbe. Those were the two guys we really wanted to guard."

The victory didn't come without some anxious moments, even though the Orange led by as many as 12 points in the first half and 42-29 with 13:58 to go in the game.

Syracuse couldn't break away in large part because most of its scoring was at the free-throw line. The Orange went 12:13 without a field goal, a stretch that began in the first minute of the second half.

The Bears (21-12) weren't doing much better but managed to get within 45-35 before Carter-Williams ended the Syracuse drought, getting into the middle of the Cal defense for an eight-footer that upped the lead to 12 with 7:18 left.

Cal hung around and was still within 52-44 before Carter-Williams did it again, this time driving to the hoop for a layup that extended the lead to double digits with just 4:02 to go.

Cal could get no closer than six the rest of the way.

"We knew we had an advantage, us guards, being able to get by their guards," Syracuse's Brandon Triche said. "So that's what we wanted to do."

C.J. Fair led the Orange with 18 points. James Southerland (14), Carter-Williams (12) and Baye Moussa Keita (11) also reached double figures.

Richard Solomon had 22 points and Tyrone Wallace 12 for Cal. Crabbe was held to single digits for just the fourth time all season and Cobbs, who missed all five of his 3-point shots, contributed five points.

"I told my players before the game: The fans aren't going to score any point," Boeheim said. "We played in tough places all year. We won in some tough places.

"I thought our team really dug down deep in a tough, tough environment and won the game."

Syracuse used board dominance to lead by as many as 12 points in the first half en route to a 32-24 advantage at the break.

Six of the Orange's 12 first-half baskets were the result of follow shots as Syracuse outrebounded Cal 10-8 on the offensive glass and 19-12 overall. The final rebounding differential was just 37-34, with Cal's Solomon leading all rebounders with 14.

NOTES: The win was the 50th in NCAA Tournament play by Syracuse's Boeheim, moving him into fourth place on the career list. ... Boeheim (918) and Cal's Montgomery (656) rank second and ninth, respectively, in wins among NCAA coaches. ... Triche equalled Stephen Thompson's Syracuse record by appearing in his 144th game. Triche has started all 144 of those games. ... Cal shot just 19 percent (4 of 21) from beyond the 3-point arc. ... Cal and Syracuse had met just once previously in their long histories, in 2009, with the Orange prevailing 95-73.
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