Syracuse 66, Cal 60

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Michael Carter-Williams penetrated the California defense for two baskets at critical stages of the second half as fourth-seeded Syracuse overcame a long field-goal drought and a significant neutral-site disadvantage to hold off California 66-60 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament East Regional on Saturday night at HP Pavilion.
The victory allowed the Orange (28-9) to return much closer to home when it meets the winner of Sunday's Indiana-Temple game on Thursday in Big East country -- Washington, D.C. -- in the Sweet 16.
Despite playing in a road-type setting just 40 miles south of the Cal campus, Syracuse 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.
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.
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.
C.J. Fair led the Orange with 18 points. James Southerland (14), Carter-Williams (12) and Baye Moussa Keita (11) also reached double figures for Syracuse, which went 26 of 41 on free throws and outscored Cal by 14 at the line.
Richard Solomon had 22 points and Tyrone Wallace 12 for Cal, which got far less than usual production from Pacific-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe, who was 3 of 9 from the field and finished with eight points, and Justin Cobbs, who missed all five of his 3-point attempts on a five-point night.
Syracuse used its 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. Seven of the eight Syracuse players who saw action in the half had at least one offensive board.
Cal had some success getting inside the Syracuse zone defense in the first half but almost no luck when attempting to shoot over it. The Bears made only one of their eight 3-point attempts but 9 of 15 shots from inside the arc.
Solomon (nine points) and Robert Thurman (six) combined for six of Cal's 10 baskets in the first 20 minutes. But Crabbe had three points and Cobbs was scoreless, combining to make 1 of 6 shots from the field.
Fair led all scorers at the half with 14 points.
NOTES: Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (917) and Cal's Mike Montgomery (656) entered the game ranked second and ninth, respectively, in wins among NCAA coaches. ... Boeheim (49-25) was bidding for his 50th career NCAA Tournament win, which would have moved him into fourth place on the career list. ... Cal and Syracuse had met just once previously in their long histories, in 2009, with the Orange prevailing 95-73. ... The last time Cal advanced to a Sweet 16 was in Syracuse after beating Villanova of the Big East in the second round.

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