March Madness Studs and Duds: Elite Eight
Cleanthony Early, Wichita State – Early has been coming up big for the Shockers all tournament long, and Saturday was no exception. The junior forward had 12 points on 5-9 shooting from the field as well as seven rebounds, two blocks and one steal. Malcolm Armstead was Wichita State’s leading scorer with 14 points, but he was incredibly inefficient as he shot 6-21 from the field. Fred Vanvleet (12 points), Tekele Cotton (10 points), Ron Baker (9 points) and Carl Hall (8 points) all played well in the upset.
Wichita State’s Defense – The Shockers made things very difficult for the Buckeyes on Saturday evening. Carl Hall led Wichita State’s defense, finishing the game with six blocks and one steal. Two of those blocks came late in the game to hold off Ohio State’s furious comeback. Hall was excellent, but he wasn’t the only Shocker who locked down the opposition. Malcolm Armstead had three steals, Cleanthony Early had two blocks and Fred Vanvleet had two steals. Wichita State had a total of nine blocks and eight steals in the upset win. Ohio State scored shot 31.1 percent from the field and scored 66 points, which was their lowest-scoring game of the tournament.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse – For the second straight game, Carter-Williams was Syracuse’s best player. The sophomore point guard filled the stat sheet in the Orange’s 55-39 win over Marquette, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. He shot 4-9 from the field and he had just two turnovers in the game. James Southerland (16 points and four rebounds) and C.J. Fair (13 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks) were also very impressive. Syracuse advanced to the Final Four thanks to their balanced attack and stifling defense.
Syracuse’s Defense – Orange head coach Jim Boeheim has called this the best defensive team he has ever coached, and it’s hard to argue with him. Syracuse’s zone defense was on display once again on Saturday afternoon, when the Orange limited Marquette to just 39 points in their Elite Eight win. The Golden Eagles hadn’t scored less than 47 points this season, but they couldn’t do anything against the 2-3 zone. Marquette turned the ball over 13 times while shooting 22.6 percent from the field and 12 percent from three-point range. Syracuse had nine steals and eight blocks in the 55-39 win.
Marquette’s Starters – The Golden Eagles’ starting five combined to score just 22 points and shot a horrendous 17.8 percent from the field. They also turned the ball over nine times. Davante Gardner came off of the bench to lead the Golden Eagles in scoring with 14 points on 6-9 shooting from the field. Gardner was the only player who wasn’t completely shut down by Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Marquette’s starters really struggled with the smothering defense. If it wasn’t for Gardner, the final score would’ve been even more lopsided.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State – Craft couldn’t find his shot against Wichita State. He finished with just nine points on 2-12 shooting from the field and he missed five of his seven attempts from long range (and one of those makes came once the game was all but decided). Craft also picked up four fouls and turned the ball over twice. Craft didn’t have his best game on Saturday and Ohio State’s season came to an end.