No. 2 seed Houston may have the hotter team, but No. 11 Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim has the hottest hand heading into Saturday night’s Midwest Region Sweet 16 clash in Indianapolis.
Head coach Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars (26-3) have won nine straight, including an 87-56 victory against No. 15 seed Cleveland State in the first round and a come-from-behind 63-60 defeat of No. 10 Rutgers on Sunday.
Houston, which also made the Sweet 16 in the 2019 tournament, hasn’t advanced to the Elite Eight since reaching three straight Final Fours from 1982-84.
The Cougars trailed the Scarlet Knights by nine with less than five minutes remaining before finishing the game on a 14-2 run.
“We never thought the game was over,” said DeJon Jarreau, who fought through a bruised hip to score 17 points. “Will to win. Will not to go home.”
American Athletic Conference co-Player of the Year Quentin Grimes scored a game-high 22 points against Rutgers after leading Houston with 18 against Cleveland State.
Grimes (18.1), Marcus Sasser (13.3) and Jarreau (10.9) are scoring in double figures this year for the Cougars, who haven’t lost since a 68-63 decision at Wichita State on Feb. 18.
Jarreau’s injury was diagnosed as a hip pointer on Monday. With most of the week to recover, he isn’t expected to miss Saturday’s game.
The Orange (18-9) are back in the Sweet 16 for the 20th time under coach Jim Boeheim, the first time since 2018. They are looking to make their deepest NCAA run since a 2016 trip to the Final Four.
Syracuse followed up its 78-62 first-round defeat of No. 6 seed San Diego State with a 75-72 upset over No. 3 West Virginia on Sunday.
Buddy Boeheim, son of the Hall of Fame coach, has averaged 26.0 points on 54.0 percent shooting — 48.5 percent (32 of 66) from 3-point range — over his last six games.
He canned a combined 13 of 23 treys in the wins against the Aztecs and Mountaineers, but his three clutch free throws down the stretch held off West Virginia.
“Buddy missed shots early on that he’s been making. (Assistant coach) Gerry (McNamara) talked to him at halftime and told him to keep going, and he knocked some huge shots down,” Jim Boeheim said. “It was a great win.”
In addition to Buddy’s 25 points, the Orange got 12 points each from Quincy Guerrier, Marek Dolezaj and Joseph Girard III.
Boeheim (18.0), Guerrier (13.9), Alan Griffin (13.7) and Dolezaj (10.0) are all scoring in double figures for Syracuse.
In the only previous matchup between these programs, Boeheim coached Syracuse to a 92-87 win against Houston at the Carrier Dome on Dec. 11, 1982.
That Cougars team, featuring future Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Akeem (later Hakeem) Olajuwon, went on to lose to Jim Valvano’s NC State squad in that season’s national championship game.
–Field Level Media