By: Eric Lyons
Fans cheered and the critics' questions were answered, when the Cuse' blew out 14 seed Western Michigan 77-53 in the first round on Thursday. Four out of five starters finished with double digits points and guard Trevor Cooney led the team with 18, shooting 4 of 8 from beyond the arch.
Even though the Cuse' scored 77, it was all about defense in the first round. The patented Jim Boeheim 2-3 zone was in full effect, limiting the Western Michigan Broncos to a dismal 34.7 field goal percent. C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, and Trevor Cooney had two steals each and Baye-Moussa Keita led the team with 2 blocks. The No. 3 seed Orange will move on to play 11 seed, the University of Dayton Flyers on Saturday at 7:10 p.m.
Dayton upset number 6 seed Ohio State and busted a lot of people's brackets with a strong second half and clutch-late-game shooting in the first round. The Flyers finished the regular season with a 23-9 record and lost in the third round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament to St Joe's. Leading scorer and Ohio State transfer, junior guard Jordan Sibert will need a career performance on Saturday against the Cuse' to keep Dayton's Cinderella story flying high.
It is not the matchup against Ohio State most Cuse' fans expected, but does improve SU's chances of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the third year in a row. If the Orange can play defense and shoot the three as well as they did in the first round, the Flyers March Madness run will crash and burn.
A wave of orange and blue will take over the Syracuse campus on Saturday night. Students already reserved tables at their favorite Marshall Street eateries and bars. Parties have been organized and plans have been canceled. The streets of Syracuse will be empty during the game, but afterward-win or lose prepare yourself because Cuse' fans' hopes of this year's team taking Orange Nation back to the National Championship have been reenergized.
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