When the Syracuse Orange and Arizona State Sun Devils were announced to the Field of 68, there was great relief and maybe some shock on both sides of the country. Then, the Orange and Sun Devils were paired to play each other in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament. The biggest question was how would Arizona State do against the vaunted 2-3 zone? Well, Shannon Evans missed the go ahead 3-point shot with four seconds left. From there, the Orange salted the game away with two Frank Howard free throws to win 60-56.
From the beginning of the contest, the pace was in favor of the Orange. They took a 30-28 lead into the halftime break. Tyus Battle scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half. However, Battle hit the go-ahead 3-pointer on a crossover stepback to give the Orange a 55-52 lead. Battle’s shot was the biggest in an 18-7 run to finish the Sun Devils off.
The Orange overcame a 49-42 deficit late in the second half. With the Sun Devils leading by two, they hit consecutive plays that could have put the game out of reach. First, a mishandled pass turned into a dunk. Moments later, the Sun Devils hit a three 1 of their 11 made 3-pointers to increase the lead to seven points. However, that was the catalysts for the Orange run
Oshae Brissett answered with a flurry of buckets, including a devastating 3-pointer to get the Orange right back in the game. Brissett also hit a jumper from the foul line extended area after discarding a defender. For long stretches, Brissett kept the Orange in the game, offensively. He scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help maintain contact throughout. Without Brissett, there is no Battle 3-pointer to take the lead.
Neither team shot free throws well in Dayton. The Orange connected on 13-of-23 foul shots, while the Sun Devils were 3-of-10 from the foul line. However, the Orange really got into a nice shooting rhythm at the end of the game. Paschal Chukwu missed his first three free throws in the game, including a 1-and-1 right after the Sun Devils missed a foul shot. Moments later, Chukwu missed a chance for an And-1 but he knocked down a pair of free throws to finish 3-of-7 from the line. If he didn’t make those three foul shots, it may have been a whole different ball game.
The Sun Devils shot 11-of-32 from the 3-point line. Tra Holder, Kodi Justice and Evans combined to shoot 10-of-29 from downtown. Mickey Mitchell hit his lone 3-point attempt. Meanwhile, the Orange shot 7-of-20 from the 3-point line. Overall, both teams shot just over 40 percent from the field. Justice led the Sun Devils with 15 points. He was joined by Evans’ 14 points and Holder’s 11 points. Mitchell scored 10 points off the bench.
The Orange will face the No. 6 seed TCU Horned Frogs on Friday night in Detroit. Game time is set for 9:40 p.m.