Sophomore Dion Waiters provided the first half fire power, while senior guard Scoop Jardine was the second-half spark the No. 1-seeded Syracuse Orange need to pull off a 75-59 third-round NCAA Tournament victory over No. 8 Kansas St. Wildcats. The Orange (33-2) become the first team to advance to the Sweet 16, where it will face either No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers or No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores next week.
Waiters netted a 11 of his team-best 18 points in the first 20 minutes, while Jardine rebounded from a terrible first half to net 16, including three 3-pointers, and dish out eight assists for Syracuse, which shot 51-percent from the field, 6-for-9 from behind the 3-point arc. The Orange's bench outscored the Wildcat's bench, 33-0.
"Basketball is two halves," said Jardine to the CBS broadcast team after the game. "The first half, I was sped up a little bit, the defense did a great job of controlling me and not letting me get into the paint to get shots that I want."
"In the second half, coach told me to take my time and take the shots if they give them to me. The first play of the second half, I came out knocked down a shot and got my rhythm going. I was just aggressive from there on out."
In replace of Big East Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore center Fab Melo, freshman center Rakeem Christmas put together a collegiate-best performance of eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Junior forward James Southerland came off the bench to score 15 points and collect six rebounds.
Ahead 36-34 just 4:52 into the second half, the Orange used 9-0 run, started by a Jardine 3-pointer and capped by two free throws by Southerland, to take a 45-34 lead with 12:51 to go.
A brief KSU spurt trimmed the margin to five points, however, a 8-0 run pushed SU's lead to a 55-42 with 9:06 remaining in the game.
From there, the Wildcats' offense, which shot just 31-percent from the floor, 23-percent from long range, couldn't muster enough points to kick start a comeback. Syracuse closed out the victory on a 7-2 run.
Junior guard Rodney McGruder finished the contest with a game-best 18 points, while Jordan Henriquez tallied 10 points and 17 rebounds, 11 on the offensive end.
Despite being without its top rebounder, senior Jamar Samuels, who did not play because of an eligibility issue that propped up a half hour before the game, Kansas State out-rebounded Syracuse 37-31, and 22-8 on the offensive side of the ball.
The Wildcats finish their season with a 22-11 overall record.
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