CNHI News Service
WASHINGTON --- All the talk leading up to the Indiana-Syracuse matchup in
the Sweet 16 centered around Syracuse’s dynamic 2-3 zone defense and how
Indiana would score against it.
On Thursday night, we found out why.
The four-seeded Orange stifled top-seeded Indiana all night with their
length and athleticism, and the Hoosiers’ season ended with a 61-50 loss
at the Verizon Center.
"It was tough to penetrate it,” said Indiana forward Will Sheehey. “They
were long on top. We tried to enter it too many times, and we'd turn it over."
"They're length is not really something you can practice against,” senior
guard Jordan Hulls added. “We turned the ball over, we didn't hit shots."
Indiana (29-7) turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and trailed
by double figures for most of the game. The Hoosiers never really did
solve the Syracuse zone, though they did get themselves back in the game
early in the second half by forcing the Orange into numerous turnovers.
Victor Oladipo’s 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 14:12 mark of
the second half cut the Syracuse to 38-32, and the Hoosiers appeared to be
in business. But they would get no closer.
Indiana shot 34 percent from the field (16-of-47), 20 percent from beyond
the arc (3-of-15) and 63 percent from the foul line (15-of-24).
"We were a little anxious, a little overwhelmed,” Oladipo said. “We all
just needed to take deep breathes and slow down, and after we did that, we
started coming back. But we dug ourselves too deep a hole."
The Hoosiers tried to get the ball to the middle and have a shooter
running the baseline at all times, but they were never able to knock down
perimeter shots to loosen up the zone. When they couldn’t, Syracuse packed
the lane even tighter and made it tough for Cody Zeller to finish inside.
“They were pretty much everywhere,” said point guard Yogi Ferrell.
Indiana’s early offensive struggles were too much to overcome, especially
when Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams got it going on the other end of
the floor. The Hoosiers had no answer for Carter-Williams, who scored a
game-high 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Carter-Williams, usually a poor
perimeter shooter, also knocked down three shots from beyond the arc.
One of the main questions about the Hoosiers entering the season was
whether small guards Ferrell and Hulls could play together in the same
backcourt. For most of the season, the answer was ‘yes.’
But on Thursday night, both guards struggled against the length of
Syracuse. Ferrell committed four first-half turnovers and found himself on
the bench to start the second half. Neither he nor Hulls scored a single
Hulls was 0-of-3 from the field and had a hard time staying in front of
Brandon Triche on the defensive end. Hulls was just 7-of-31 from the field
in Indiana’s five postseason games, including 4-of-24 from beyond the arc.
“It’s a terrible way to go out,” Hulls said. “It will haunt me the rest of
Oladipo led Indiana with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and Cody Zeller
added 11 points and nine rebounds.
With the loss, the Hoosiers say goodbye to seniors Christian Watford,
Derek Elston and Hulls. There has also been a great deal of speculation
that Oladipo and Zeller may leave school early for the NBA Draft.
Both Oladipo and Zeller said they hadn’t yet thought about their futures.
"I have no clue,” Zeller said. “I don't know how it goes, I don't know
what happens from here. I was putting everything into this team, this
tournament. I haven't thought about it at all."