Kansas State loses 75-59 to top-seeded Syracuse

JIM O'CONNELL AP Basketball Writer Published:

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Kansas State had to play a man short in its biggest game of the season. The way top-seeded Syracuse played in the second half, it really didn't matter.

A day after they found out leading rebounder Jamar Samuels would be held out because of an eligibility issue, the eighth-seeded Wildcats more than handled themselves on the boards. But they couldn't stop the Orange from scoring in the second half and lost 75-59 on Saturday in the third round of the East Regional.

"We didn't lose because we lost Jamar. Let me get that straight now. Because Syracuse is minus a very good player, too," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said, referring to Orange top rebounder Fab Melo, declared ineligible by the school this week for the NCAA tournament.

"We just lost the toughest guy on our team. He's our toughest kid. He gives us the ability to make some shots against that zone. It gives us a frontline guy who's a fifth-year senior to deal with the adjustments that you got to make during the course of the game," he said.

The Wildcats were down 25-24 at halftime, but Syracuse shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half -- including going 5 for 5 from 3-point range -- to pull away to a much easier win than it had in the second round against 16th-seeded North Carolina-Asheville.

"They're too good," Martin said of the Orange. "Here is the deal with Syracuse. If you're playing from behind against them, you're in trouble because of their zone, and their guards are so good that they're not going to give it to you. They're going to get it deep in the shot clock and take hard shots."

As Syracuse was taking and making shots, the Wildcats couldn't get anything going against the Orange's 2-3 zone, finishing 21 of 67 from the field (31.3 percent) and 4 of 17 from 3-point range.

"A couple of my shots, they were able to get their hands on and deflect. When you see that happen, you become a little bit hesitant," said Will Spradling, who had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. "Some of our players were a little bit hesitant shooting.

We just needed to step up and knock some shots down."

Scoop Jardine had 16 points and eight assists, Dion Waiters had 18 points and James Southerland added 15 for the Orange (33-2), who had been struggling lately.

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.

"We won. We won the game. It don't matter," Jardine said. "It don't matter if we played good or bad. We won and advanced. That's what this tournament's about. We saw a lot of upsets. A No. 2 lost to a No. 15 seed. That's what this tournament is about. We don't worry about how we're playing; we just worry about getting the 'W.' We're advancing to the Sweet 16. That's all that matters when we get there, too."

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

Rodney McGruder had 15 points for the Wildcats (22-11).

"It was tough playing without him, especially one of our seniors. He's one of the main leaders of the team," McGruder said of Samuels. "It was just tough, you know. It's tough that he would never get to play another game in a Kansas State uniform. He missed his last game."

McGruder, who had 30 points in the second-round win over Southern Mississippi, rolled an ankle in the first half and finished 5 for 13 from the field while playing 35 minutes.

"It was tough to play on, but I just wanted the victory so I just tried to fight it through," he said.

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 time in four years 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.

Southerland was 5 of 6 from the field in the second half, and Jardine and Waiters were both 5 of 9.

"It's all a rhythm thing. James got in a rhythm. Scoop in the second half got in a rhythm. That's what we want to see," said Kris Joseph, who had 11 points for the Orange. "We don't want to take contested shots. We want easy, open shots. That's what we got."

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.

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 a career-high 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 able to turn them into only 20 second-chance points.

Henriquez had trouble defensively and had to sit for 4 minutes in the second half because of foul trouble.

"They dragged me away from the rim," he said. "When I did contest, they usually got into my body, hit me with a pump fake, drew a couple fouls on me early in the second half."