The Syracuse Orange are vulnerable in the NCAA basketball tournament despite their #1 seed. The UNC-Asheville Bulldogs nearly made history as the first 16 seed to beat a #1.
The NCAA college basketball community knew that #1 see Syracuse was vulnerable after losing center Fab Melo due to ineligibility. Hardly anyone expected a near first round loss by the Orange. They had only lost twice all year before this game. Fortunately for Syracuse their talent overcame the Bulldogs tenacity and resulted in a 72-65 victory.
The Bulldogs never let it show that they played into the tournament against Syracuse. They were up 34-30 at the half and led by as much as 7 over the more talented Orange. Although the absence of Melo made it easier to penetrate the lane, UNC-Asheville scored mostly from the perimeter, shooting 9 for 23 at 3-point range. Senior Bulldogs guard J.P. Primm sank 4 of 8 to go along with his team leading 18 points, four rebounds and three assists.
The last few minutes made every possession a nail biter and the game was decided at the free throw line.
With 3 minutes left in the game, James Southerland buried a 3-pointer that put Syracuse’s lead to eight points.
However, a foul on UNC Asheville’s Dion Walters behind the arc put him on the charity stripe where he hit 2 of 3 free throws. That was quickly followed by a Bulldogs steal on the in-bound play with less than 2 minutes left in the game and their last time out.
With under a minute to go, J.P. Primm drew a foul from Brandon Triche and made two free throws, drawing bringing the deficit within three. A controversial out-of-bounds call that went in Syracuse’s favor forced the Bulldogs to foul Scoop Jardine, who sank both of his free throws. Primm was subsequently fouled again to sink two more, but with no time outs left, the Bulldogs were forced to quickly foul Syracuse on every ensuing possession. They hit their next four free throws to seal the game.
Syracuse’s James Southerland lead his team in scoring with 15 points and 3 for 6 behind the arc, while Jardine dished out 7 assists with his 12 points.