Marquette vs. Syracuse final: Orange defense on display, headed to Final Four

USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse's defense is really hitting stride, holding Marquette to 39 points a game after keeping Indiana to just 50. Their offense wasn't amazing, but it was enough to give them an East Regional title.

The Syracuse Orange are headed to the Final Four for the first time since winning the 2003 National Championship, as their 2-3 zone remained absolutely dominant in the NCAA Tournament thus far, holding the Marquette Golden Eagles to just 39 points.

Syracuse scored only 39 points at the Verizon Center in their regular season finale against Georgetown, making their postseason hopes look pretty slim. With Georgetown out of the tournament since the first round, they returned the favor in an unreal defensive effort on the same floor. Marquette shot just 12-for-53 from the field, with 14 turnovers -- yes, more turnovers than field goals -- and took 24 threes despite not being a very good team at shooting behind the arc. They hit only three of those, and trailed almost the entire game.

Syracuse led 18-7 in the early going, and although the Golden Eagles would fight back to make it 21-18 at one point, it wouldn't get much closer than the six-point margin at the half. Davante Gardner was Marquette's only effective player, but wasn't able to repeat a 26-point performance in a 74-71 win earlier on the season, finishing with just 11 points.

For Syracuse, the leader was James Southerland, who hit two of the team's threes -- they only shot 5-for-17 and 19-for-50 from the field overall, but survived thanks to the awful play of Marquette -- and had an and-one layup in transition as part of a 7-0 run to push Syracuse's lead to double-digits early in the second half.

Syracuse's defense has been unreal thus far this tourney. First, they held Montana to just 34 points. Sure, Montana, but still. Next was California, who managed 60, not bad! And Indiana -- who entered the game with the most efficient offense in the country per Ken Pomeroy's stats - now they're No. 2 -- had just 50 points on 65 possessions, their lowest output of the country. Syracuse is two games away from another national title, and if they win it, it will be thanks to their unbelievable play out of Boeheim's signature zone.

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