Syracuse’s magical run came to an abrupt halt one win short of college basketball's biggest stage.
Instead, Ohio State advanced to the Final four in New Orleans for the 11th time in its school history, the No. 2 seeded Buckeyes defeating the top-seeded Orange 77-70 on Saturday night in Boston.
A sold out TD Garden crowd of 18,177 saw Ohio State capitalized on its inside strength and controlled the second half, holding the lead for the last 14 minutes, 45 seconds.
Every time SU stormed back, the Buckeyes reciprocated as the forward tandem of of Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Tomas, unhindered by late foul trouble, rattled SU’s defense into submission. Sullinger and Thomas exposed SU's fragile zone, scoring at will from close range.
Sullinger led his team scoring 19 points, 15 of them in the second half. Lanzelle Smith added 18 points and drilled a few important 3-pointers while SU tried to rally. Thomas netted 14 points and William Buford added 13 points.
Seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph two of winningest players in SU history, got one more chance to shine. But though Joseph’s career overall was stellar, he struggled against Ohio State, only getting 10 points on four-of-11 shooting.
Jardine, who had played well in all the NCAA Tournament games, scored 14 points and dished out six assists. Brandon Triche scored a team-high 15 points. Dion Waiters registered nine points, but struggled shooting the ball, going two-for-eight two days before he announced that he was leaving SU and entering the NBA Draft.
It was a game dominated by physical play and riddled with too many whistles that, perhaps, decided the outcome. Ohio State took 17 more free throws (42-25) than SU and converted 11 more, also pounding the Orange 39-26 on the boards.
At the onset Ohio State dashed out to a 9-2 lead before Syracuse recovered scoring six straight points in a 19-second span. Foreshadowing the physical battle ahead, Smith collided with Triche, forcing the Ohio State forward to leave the game and receive stitches to his forehead before returning later.