Buckeyes finally bust Orange zone

The Ohio State Buckeyes were the only Big Ten team still playing after the Sweet 16, but preserved some conference pride by knocking off the Syracuse Orange, 77-70, to advance to their first Final Four since 2007 and 11th overall.

This was the fourth Big Ten-Big East matchup in the 2012 NCAA tournament and Ohio State now owns both of the Big Ten’s wins so far. The decisive fifth game could come in the national championship on April 2 if both Louisville and Ohio State win their semifinal games.

No. 1 seed looms large

Ohio State beats a No. 1 seed for the second time in school history. It also did so in 1999, when it beat top-seeded Auburn, 72-64, in the South Regional Semifinal. However, the Buckeyes lost to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Final Four.

This was the third time that Syracuse has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, a feat the Orange also achieved in 1980 and 2010. This year’s team suffered the same fate as the others, failing to reach the Final Four each time.

What went right for Ohio State

The Buckeyes struggled to find their range in the first half, shooting 35 percent overall while missing 6-of-7 from beyond the arc. Ohio State flipped the switch in the final 20 minutes, connecting on half of its shots from the floor and 23-of-29 free throws.

Jared Sullinger and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. combined for 31 of the Buckeyes’ 48 second-half points, after scoring just six total points in the first half.

Ohio St Shooting Outside the Paint

Elite Eight vs Syracuse

The Buckeyes lit up the perimeter in the second half, going 7-for-11 on shots outside the paint en route to the win. Ohio State was shooting just 41 percent on shots outside the paint in its first three tournament games.

Overall, the Buckeyes shot 44 percent against the Syracuse zone, including 11-for-21 in the second half. That was the highest field-goal percentage allowed by the Orange zone defense over their past three NCAA tournaments.

Ohio State also drew 27 fouls against the 'Cuse zone defense, the most fouls drawn against the Orange zone in the past three NCAA tournaments.

What went wrong for Syracuse

The Orange used a strong perimeter game to beat Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, hitting 12-of-14 shots outside the paint in the win. Against Ohio State tonight, Syracuse went cold from distance, missing 20-of-28 attempts outside the paint, including a woeful 3-for-16 effort in the first half.

Perhaps Syracuse was destined to lose when it stepped on the floor. The Orange are now 1-7 versus Big Ten teams under coach Jim Boeheim, with their only win coming against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.

Stat of the game

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Big Ten is now 5-0 all-time vs the Big East in Regional Final games.