Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Sports

March 27, 2013

IU readies for Syracuse's long-armed defense

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indiana thought it had experienced everything when it escaped the brutal Big Ten Conference with the outright title.Then the Hoosiers started looking at videotape of Syracuse’s stingy zone defense.

“We don’t see a lot of 2-3 zones like this,” said senior guard Jordan Hulls on the eve of Indiana's Sweet 16 game with Syracuse at the Verizon Center here.

“They’re very long, very athletic; they close out to balls a lot faster than what we’ve seen."

Syracuse's zone defense is unlike any other. It has given Big East coaches fits since Jim Boeheim became the Syracuse head coach in 1976. Players swing their long arms nimbly in pursuit of the ball, putting plenty of pressure on the offense.

Still, Indiana is favored in the NCAA East Regional semifinal match that gets underway at 9:45 p.m. Thursday. To live up to that expectation, they will have to overcome the Syracuse defense.

What makes the Orange's zone so to daunting?

Mostly the athletes Boeheim recruits to play it. The shortest player in Syracuse's starting lineup is Brandon Triche at 6-foot-4. The front line of C.J. Fair (6-8), James Southerland (6-8) and Rakeem Christmas (6-9) is capable of flying around and trapping in the corners.

“They like to get up in your face," said Indiana forward Will Sheehey. "They get out and challenge passing lanes, they don’t pack it in. It’s almost like a pressure 2-3 zone.”

Indiana coach Tom Crean competed against  the Syracuse zone when he was at Marquette from 1999-2008. But he said that doesn't necessarily give him an advantage.

“I don’t think you can look at that zone and think you’re going to beat it any one way,” Crean said. "I (also) don’t think you can look at the zone and think you can stand around and pass the ball around the perimeter either. That is a recipe for defeat.”

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