Syracuse flattens Montana to advance
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
SAN JOSE, Calif. – This has been called a wide-open tournament that could be won by a double-digit seed.
And Syracuse has had tournament-opening troubles before. And, on the eve of the game, the Syracuse players could read all about the NCAA investigation into the Orange basketball program.
Add all that together and it spelled R-O-U-T when Syracuse began the tournament with an 81-34 laugher Thursday night against No.13 seed Montana, champion of the Big Sky Conference.
The Orange’s margin of victory set an NCAA tournament record for a team not seeded first or second. Oddly, Syracuse broke the mark set less than an hour earlier by VCU which beat Akron by 46.
The Orange, seeded No.4 in the East Region, had blown a 16-point lead in the second half of their last game, the Big East tournament final against Louisville.
Through three minutes against Montana, Syracuse forward C.J. Fair had a 6-2 lead on Montana.
Other Orange players eventually scored, and way more than the Montana players.
It took Syracuse just five minutes to build a double-digit lead the Orange would never lose.
It was 30-11 with five minutes left in the first half, so despite the 10:41 p.m. ET tip, Syracuse fans could have happily gone to bed at halftime with visions of lob dunks dancing in their heads.
“We just got things going early, and Montana couldn’t make any shots,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “It was one of those games that Montana couldn’t do anything right. We played really well, offensively and defensively. Everybody had one of those games. It was our night.”
The Montana dreams couldn’t have been nice. The Grizzlies were lobbed over. They were dribbled around. They were trapped on the baseline. They were pushed outside the arc. They settled for low-percentage heaves over taller defenders.
By halftime, it was a 23-point lead – 38-15.
The rest was details.
“It snowballed and we couldn’t do much against them,” said Montana coach Wayne Tinkle. “It was ugly. We haven’t seen that kind … [For more on Syracuse flattens Montana, heads to next NCAA round, click here.]