Last-in Syracuse rallies for 60-56 win over Arizona State
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By JOE KAY
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) The last team to make the NCAA Tournament gets to play at least one more. Credit Syracuse's fabulous freshman forward and its legendary zone defense for getting a cringe-worthy win.
Freshman Oshae Brissett had his 13th double-double while leading Syracuse's second-half comeback, and the Orange - the last team to make the NCAA Tournament - held on for a 60-56 victory over Arizona State on Wednesday night in the First Four.
The 11th-seeded Orange plays No. 6 seed TCU (21-11) on Friday in Detroit in the Midwest Region.
Syracuse (21-13) had to sweat out Selection Sunday and wound up as the last one to make the bracket, relegated to the First Four. The Orange prevailed in a matchup of teams that started fast and then faded onto the tournament bubble.
"Our offense struggles," coach Jim Boeheim said. "But I thought our defense has been good all year and that's where we hang our hats, on the defensive end."
Arizona State (20-12) opened the season with 12 wins, including victories over tournament No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas. The Sun Devils went 8-12 the rest of the way, and their high-powered offense got shut down in their biggest game.
Arizona State scored a season low in points - only the third time it's been held under 70 all season. The Sun Devils' previous low was 64 points.
"Usually we're scoring 56 in a half, and we ended up with 56," coach Bobby Hurley said. "So there were limited possessions. It was a rock fight, and we just didn't make enough shots."
Brissett overcame a hard fall in the first half, scored 23 points and had 12 rebounds. He had a three-point play and a step-back jumper as the Orange overcame a seven-point deficit with 7 minutes left.
"I knew he was going to get back up," said Tyus Battle, whose 3-pointer put Syracuse ahead to stay. "He's hit some huge shots. He's done that countless times this year."
With a chance to take the lead, Arizona State's Shannon Evans II missed a 3-pointer with 2 seconds to go. Frank Howard got the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to clinch it. Kodi Justice had 15 points for Arizona State, which hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009.
Syracuse: The Orange uses only seven players and had concerns about Howard, who had a throat ailment the last few days. He hit a pair of 3s and had a steal and layup as the Orange opened with a 10-7 run. He finished with 12 points, including the clinching free throws.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils struggled against zone defenses during conference play and were facing one of the most fabled in the country. They struggled to get open shots and missed five straight as Syracuse went ahead to stay. The Sun Devils finished 11 of 32 from beyond the arc.
"There wasn't a real issue with our offense," Hurley said. "Syracuse dragged us through possessions and went deep in the (shot) clock."
Boeheim got his 54th NCAA Tournament victory, tying Rick Pitino for fourth on the all-time list.
ENDING THE FADE
Like Arizona State, the Orange also did a fade during the season. Syracuse won 10 of its first 11 games, then went 10-12 to fall onto the tournament bubble for the third year in a row.
NOT THIS TIME
The Sun Devils often were at their best in the second half, averaging 44.5 points. They put up 60 in the second half against Longwood, 58 against both Xavier and Kansas, 57 against Pacific and 56 against San Diego State. This time, they were held to 28.
Brissett landed hard after he was fouled while shooting and stayed down for a couple of minutes. He limped on his right leg as he headed to the bench to get checked out during a timeout, then went back in the game and missed both free throws.
The game attracted a capacity crowd of 12,732 to University of Dayton Arena, a First Four record.
Syracuse hopes to duplicate its 2016 tournament run. The Orange was a No. 10 seed and reached the national semifinals, where it lost to North Carolina.
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Updated March 15, 2018