- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
CLEVELAND -- Larry Bird is not walking through that door.
Indiana State played with a lot of heart, but Syracuse was the team with a lot of size. And that made a literal huge difference.
A team with four starters 6-foot-5 and under simply can't combat the length in Syracuse's 2-3 zone without burying a bunch of 3s. Indiana State was only 7-of-21 behind the arc. Syracuse used its superior size to pull away late, making the 77-60 final score look worse than how the game actually went most of the night.
With that, the first -- whoops, make that second -- round of the NCAA tournament is officially over. Syracuse avoided another Big East loss and ensured that the two non-Dayton days ended with the top three seeds in each region advancing.
Turning point: Indiana State's best counterpunch came early in the second half, when it closed the gap to 42-38 by driving to the basket and drawing contact. The Orange then turned to their strength on offense -- going down low --- and reeled off a 9-0 run. From there, it was a methodical dismantling, as the lead never again reached single digits.
Key stat: Syracuse shot 52.3 percent and got to the free-throw line 31 times, both indicators of how its size advantage played out.
Star player: Rick Jackson was far too much of a load for the smaller Sycamores to handle. The Orange big man scored a season-high 23 points, including 9-of-11 from the free-throw line, and pulled down seven rebounds.
Miscellany: There were some very questionable whistles in the second half, and calls that went against both teams, but Indiana State seemed to get more rattled by the refs. Several Sycamores spent more time barking at the zebras than they should have. ... Indiana State guard Jake Odum has a lot of flair to his game, reminiscent of Jason "White Chocolate" Williams. He made some sweet wraparound passes in the lane and finished with six assists. He could have had more if his teammates would have finished better around the rim. Credit Syracuse's defense for that. ... Thank goodness for the George Mason-Villanova finish. The subsequent three games in Cleveland were all decided by at least 11 points.
What's next: The Orange are headed for a Big East rematch with Marquette, whom they lost to in the regular season, on Sunday. That wouldn't have happened under the old tournament rules designed to prevent conference mates from meeting this early. But with 11 Big East teams in the Big Dance, it was almost inevitable.
CLEVELAND -- Larry Bird is not walking through that door.Indiana State played with a lot of heart, but Syracuse was the team with a lot of size. And that made a literal huge difference.