K-State falls in 3rd round to top-seeded Syracuse

Kansas State's Jamar Samuels (left) consoles teammate Rodney McGruder (right) after the top-seeded Syracuse Orange eliminated the eighth-seeded Wildcats from the NCAA tournament with a 75-59 win at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Saturday, March 17, 2012.

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Scoop Jardine had 16 points and eight assists to lead top-seeded Syracuse to a 75-59 victory over eighth-seeded Kansas State on Saturday in the third round of the East Regional

Dion Waiters had 18 points and James Southerland added 15 for the Orange (33-2), who didn’t wait until the final minutes to seal the win as they did in the second round against 16th-seeded North Carolina-Asheville.

Syracuse plays Vanderbilt or Wisconsin in Boston on Thursday night in the regional semifinals.

Rodney McGruder had 15 points for the Wildcats (22-11), who struggled from the field against Syracuse’s 2/3 zone defense.

Neither team had its leading rebounder. Syracuse’s 7-foot Fab Melo, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, was declared ineligible by the school for the rest of the tournament earlier in the week. About 20 minutes before the start of this game, Kansas State announced that Jamar Samuels would be held out over an eligibility issue.

Among those in the crowd at Consol Energy Center was Vice President Joe Biden, who went to law school at Syracuse.

This is Syracuse’s 17th appearance overall and third straight in the round of 16. The Orange, who had already set a school record for wins in a season, were ranked No. 1 for six weeks this season and were never out of the top five.

They hadn’t looked that way lately, even in their wins. Syracuse scored fewer than 70 points — it averages 74.5 — in five of the last seven games. The Orange shot better than 46.5 percent from the field — their mark for the season — only once, and the stretch included 3-point performances of 1 for 15, 5 for 20 and 3 for 14. Against UNC-Asheville, they shot 44.6 percent overall and 5 for 23 on 3s, and that included making one of their first 13.

It was a lot different against Kansas State, especially with the strong second half. Southerland was 5 of 6 from the field and Jardine and Waiters were both 5 of 9.

With Waiters going 7 of 7 and Joseph 7 of 8, the Orange finished 23 of 29 from the free throw line, while the Wildcats were 13 of 19.

Rakeem Christmas, who moved into Melo’s spot in the starting lineup, had eight points and 11 rebounds for Syracuse, which shot 66.7 percent in the second half (14 of 21), including making all five of its attempts from behind the 3-point line.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose 889 wins rank third on the Division I list behind Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight, earned his 47th NCAA tournament victory, tied with John Wooden for fifth place.

Jordan Henriquez had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Kansas State, which dominated the rebounding throughout, finishing with a 41-32 advantage. Henriquez had 11 of the Wildcats’ 25 offensive rebounds, but they were only able to turn them into 20 second-chance points.

McGruder had 30 points in the second-round win over Southern Mississippi but he was just 5 of 13 from the field against the Orange.

Syracuse, which didn’t take the lead for good against Asheville until there were 6 minutes to play and then saw the Bulldogs get within three points three times in the closing 1:20, took the lead for good Saturday with 18:20 to go on a 3-pointer by Jardine. The Orange pushed the lead to double figures on two free throws by Southerland that made it 45-34 with 12:52 to play.

Waiters’ three-point play with 5:19 left had the Orange ahead 63-47, and they were in control the rest of the way.

Kansas State, which had three wins this season over teams ranked in the top 10, was last in the regional semifinals in 2010.

It was a first half of runs that left Syracuse with a 25-24 lead.

Kansas State opened the game on a 9-2 spurt, another in a streak of bad starts for the Orange. They didn’t wait long, however, to put together a 21-3 run to take a 23-12 lead with 8:09 to play. Joseph and Waiters scored all but two of Syracuse’s point in the run and it looked as though the Orange were going to take control as the Wildcats missed shots from the field and the free throw line and turned the ball over time and again against Syracuse’s 2/3 zone.

But it was Kansas State’s turn to go on a run and the Wildcats, playing mostly reserves, closed the half on an 11-2 spurt to make it a one-point game at halftime.

Both teams struggled shooting in the first half and the Wildcats dominated the rebounding 28-16, including grabbing 15 on the offensive end. But they only turned those into nine points.

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