Syracuse zone stifles Indiana again in SU win

first_imgWhen Syracuse and Indiana met in the Sweet 16 last year, the 2-3 zone flummoxed the Hoosiers.This year, an almost entirely new cast of personnel for Indiana was just as offensively perplexed and ineffective. The zone worked its magic against head coach Tom Crean’s crew for the second time in a row. Syracuse (8-0) held Indiana (6-2) to 36.6 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers on Tuesday night, knocking off the Hoosiers 69-52 in front of 26,414 in the Carrier Dome. IU scored just four points in transition and was flustered all night long. For the first time this season, SU head coach Jim Boeheim said, the defense was the difference. “We really did the best job defensively we’ve done in a long time this year,” Boeheim said, “and probably the whole year.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBy the time Indiana scored its first point, Syracuse had already put a 10-spot on the board. Trevor Cooney had already hit two 3s. An IU timeout and the under-16 media timeout had come and gone.The Hoosiers missed seven shots to start the game and didn’t score until a pair of Noah Vonleh free throws at the 15:18 mark.Indiana’s offense was in complete disarray, just like it was last March when Syracuse pulled the upset.That changed briefly during a 13-3 run keyed by consecutive Yogi Ferrell 3-pointers that gave Indiana its first and only lead — 27-26 — with 3:28 left in the first half.When a Vonleh jumper tied the score at 33 two minutes into the second half, it appeared Indiana had cracked the code.But the strong finish to the first half quickly regressed into mediocrity, and once again Syracuse’s defense fueled a game-changing run. The Orange closed out on Ferrell and IU’s other shooters, and its corner traps overwhelmed the Hoosiers. When the Hoosiers tried to work the ball inside, the length of the SU defense got in its way. “Last year they’ve got more open shooters,” SU forward C.J. Fair said, “so this year we tried to pack it in a little bit.”This time, unlike in the first half, the damage was too much. Syracuse went on a torrid 23-3 run spanning nine minutes, claiming a commanding 20-point lead thanks to its defense.Baye Moussa Keita swarmed Will Sheehey in the corner. Fair altered the shot and Jerami Grant swatted it away. The players involved changed, but the result was the same. The defense was a well-oiled machine that Indiana simply didn’t have the personnel to bust.Tyler Ennis forced two steals in the span of 17 seconds. His fourth and final steal led to a rim-rattling two-handed slam by Cooney to bump SU’s lead to 21. “We kind of blocked the lane for them,” Ennis said, “and we knew they wanted to get to the basket.”Crean’s tie became more and more crooked as the half wore on and his team continued to struggle offensively.In Maui, Syracuse shot lights out. Against Baylor in the finale, Syracuse hit 51 percent from the floor and 91 percent from the line. But the defense still wasn’t there. Baylor shot 55 percent from the field and 47 percent from downtown. Tuesday night was the first time the zone has been impenetrable this season. “It’s our main weapon,” Keita said of the defense. “We have to use it every single night.”Last year, Syracuse forced Indiana into 18 turnovers. All of Indiana’s starters besides Victor Oladipo shot less than 37 percent.The result was no different on Tuesday night. Indiana doesn’t have the same firepower it did a year ago, but Syracuse ensured the young guns in the Big Ten didn’t end its hot streak to start the season.Said Fair: “We knew we were trying to model that defensive presence from last year.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on December 4, 2013 at 3:34 am Contact Trevor: [email protected] | @TrevorHasslast_img