Syracuse solves Wis.-Green Bay, 64-59

March 20, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

OGDEN, Utah -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim doesn't get a lot of credit, a fact he reminded the media of at every opportunity yesterday. But he made a key defensive decision yesterday that earned his team a ticket to the Sweet 16.

Going against a Wisconsin-Green Bay team that usually runs circles around opponents with its methodical motion offense, Boeheim had his team sit back in a zone defense the entire game. By the time the Phoenix got untracked it was too late, as Syracuse came away with a 64-59 win before a capacity crowd at the Dee Events Center.

The result was the 12th appearance in the Sweet 16 for the Orangemen, who will face Missouri on Thursday in Los Angeles in a rematch of the 1989 regional semifinal in the Midwest (Syracuse won that game, 83-80). The top-seeded Tigers (27-3) shot 68.0 percent to beat Wisconsin in yesterday's late game.

In staying in its zone defense, No. 4 seed Syracuse (23-6) held No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay (28-6) to 38.9 percent shooting from the field -- well below its season average of 49.5 percent. Syracuse dominated the boards (35-25) and blocked 11 shots.

"We didn't plan to play the zone the whole way," Boeheim said. "I felt we did not want to play them man-to-man in the first half. I didn't think we would be effective for that long."

But the Orangemen were very effective against a Phoenix team looking for its second big upset. The Phoenix shot 37.0 percent in the first half and fell behind by as many as 16, having difficulty getting a shot off. Six of Syracuse's 11 blocks came in the first half.

"We never really got a handle offensively," Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Dick Bennett said. "It was a combination of good [defense] and not enough good shots."

Syracuse had problems of its own shooting the ball, missing its first nine shots from the field and falling behind, 12-7. But from the outset the Orangemen established dominance on the boards, getting three shots on each of their first three possessions. Once the shots started falling, the Orangemen pounded everything into the inside, making all eight of their field goals during a 16-3 run from in the paint.

By the half, all but one of Syracuse's 14 first-half field goals came in the paint. Just two of Wisconsin-Green Bay's first-half field goals came from in the paint, but the Phoenix were able to pull within 37-26 at the half.

Making a few adjustments, the Phoenix was able to get into the paint a little more in the second half and -- combined with fatigue tTC by a Syracuse team that plays a six-man rotation -- pulled to within 55-53 after a three-pointer by Logan VanderVelden with 5:50 left.

Later, the Phoenix got as close as 58-57 after a layup by Jeremy Ludvigson with 3:01 left and had the support of the crowd.

But with a chance to go ahead, guard John Martinez (13 points) missed a 12-foot baseline jumper. Syracuse forward Lucious Jackson hit a free throw and guard Adrian Autry (16 points) -- who hurt his left knee with just over three minutes left -- scored the next four points for the Orangemen to secure the victory.

"I knew Adrian would be back," said Syracuse guard Lawrence Moten (17 points, eight rebonds, four blocks). "He wanted to go to California -- real bad."

Autry's play down the stretch helped, but the credit goes to Boeheim's decision to stick with the zone.

"I want to credit Syracuse for really understanding what it took to beat us," Bennett said. "I thought if we could get them to play man-to-man, we could grind them. They're decision to stay zone was a wise one. I told my assistant 'if we can't get them out of the zone, I don't think we'll get this one.' "

And that, combined with Syracuse's strength and size, helped end a season in which Wisconsin-Green Bay recorded the most wins in its Division I history.

Missouri, which looked sluggish in Thursday's first-round win over Navy, showed no such signs against No. 9 Wisconsin.

The Tigers shot 65.4 percent in the first half, and then topped that with a 70.8 percent second half to beat the Badgers.

Melvin Booker scored 34 points (11 of 14 from the field) and reserve guard Paul O'Liney came back from his one-game suspension to add 23. Five players scored in double figures for Missouri, with all but one starter shooting better than 50 percent.

"I'm happy everybody got to see the real Missouri play," said coach Norm Stewart.

The Badgers trailed, 54-47, at the half as they got just five minutes in the first half from center Rashard Griffith, who picked up three fouls early. The 6-foot-11 freshman, who on Friday proclaimed "I own the paint" picked up his fourth foul nearly three minutes into the second half and had to sit.

By the time he returned, with 8:46 left, the Badgers trailed, 83-70.

Missouri, used to going home early when reaching the NCAA tournament, would go on to lead by as many as 19 points. Several runs by Wisconsin pulled the Badgers to within 10 points, the latest after a three-pointer by Tracy Webster with just under two minutes left. But the Tigers held on, winning for the 17th time in 18 games.

Michael Finley led Wisconsin with 36 points and Webster contributed 27.

"They'll probably go a long way," Wisconsin coach Stu Jackson said. "We had no answers to their threes."

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