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NCAA Tournament: Syracuse trounces Montana, 81-34


SAN JOSE, Calif. — Syracuse University learned its lesson from a year ago, making sure its first appearance against an inferior opponent in the 2013 NCAA Tournament was not as pressure-packed like its 2012 debut.

Taking control in the first few minutes, then building a 23-point halftime lead, the fourth-seeded Orange overwhelmed No. 13 Montana, 81-34, Thursday night in an East Region second-round game at HP Pavilion. It was SU’s most lopsided victory in the school’s 92nd NCAA appearance.

Senior Brandon Triche scored 20 points and junior C.J. Fair added 13 for Syracuse (27-9), which advances to play No. 12 California (21-11) in a third-round game at 9:40 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised by TBS. California upset No. 5 UNLV 64-61 in Thursday night’s first game.

The California campus in Berkeley is just 45 minutes away from San Jose, so it will be almost like a home game for the Bears.

Last season, the top-seeded Orange struggled most of the game before holding off No. 16 UNC Asheville 72-65 to open its tournament. But this time, SU took care of business quickly and made sure the undersized Grizzlies had no answers.

Freshman forward DaJuan Coleman contributed 12 points and five rebounds off the bench, while point guard Michael Carter-Williams had eight assists for the Orange.

SU shot 53 percent from the field, 5-of-11 on 3-pointers, recorded 18 assists and 12 steals and owned a 10-rebound advantage.

Conversely, Montana suffered through its worst shooting performance of the season, hitting just 20 percent, including 4-for-31 from 3-point land, and finished with 17 turnovers.

“We got going early and made a lot of shots,’’ SU coach Jim Boeheim said. “It was just one of those games where everything went right for us and nothing went right for them.’’

Said Triche: “Because we were favored (by 13), we didn’t want to give them any confidence early. C.J. got us off to a good start, and we just kept on going to put them away early.’’

“Syracuse has a lot of talent, and it got ugly quickly,’’ Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said. “We just couldn’t get anything going. We wanted to attack from the high post, but we made bad decisions and they really reacted well to what we wanted to do.’’

After leading 38-15 at halftime, the Orange made sure Montana could not come back by scoring the first six points of the second half.

Then, after Montana finally scored three minutes into the half, SU added nine more points in a row as the lead grew to 53-17.

Fair scored the first six points of the game, finishing with 11 in the first half. His 3-pointer expanded an early advantage to 18-4 just six minutes into the game.

Montana missed seven consecutive field goals during one stretch and went through a nearly six-minute scoring drought late in the half as the Orange built the lead to 30-13.

Triche, who contributed 12 first-half points, scored the final eight as the Orange shot 56 percent from the field (14-for-25), made 3-of-6 on 3-pointers, recorded 11 assists and held a seven-rebound advantage in the opening 20 minutes.

But the SU defense was even more impressive as its length in the 2-3 zone stymied the Grizzlies.

Montana, averaging more than 70 points per game, suffered through its lowest scoring half of the season, went 5-for-25 from the field and only 1-of-10 behind the arc.

The Grizzlies also turned the ball over 10 times, leading to 18 SU points.

“We did a great job of staying active in the zone,’’ SU senior James Southerland said. “When we defend and rebound like that, we’re tough to beat.’’

Big Sky Conference champion Montana (25-7), which saw a six-game winning streak snapped, fell to 2-10 in the NCAA Tournament.

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